Monday, December 13, 2010

Everyday Insights

Yesterday I had a conversation with an acquaintance about education. When people find out what I do for work, they frequently have stories to relate about their own experiences with school--either as students or parents--and thoughts about how to improve things. Though Steve was not a professional educator, his ideas about learning and how to engage students were insightful. Distilling the casual conversation into three ideas:
  • Students need to be moving. Is there a way to integrate movement into all subject areas? A designer by training and profession, Steve was thinking through how to do this with an art class he had been asked to teach at a local extension program.
  • Some students are who, what, where, when thinkers; some are why thinkers. He had a good friend who was the former and did very well in school; he was the latter and struggled. Is it fair that so much of our current schooling system is based on the kind of learning that can be assessed on a scannable form, rather than in essays and explanations? Steve shared that he still remembers a high school teacher whose final exam question was based on a historical novel they had been given a choice of reading. The questions was simply: Why did you choose the book you selected.
  • Students need Heroes. They need adults who challenge them, believe in their capacity to meet the challenge, and provide support as needed. Steve turned his mediocre school career around when a teacher noticed the doodles in his notebook and suggested he take an art elective. 
Hungry for stories (and blog fodder), I love sharing briefly about the work we do and hearing those whose only connection to school is having been a student chime in with what worked and didn't work for them. If you find yourself at a holiday party and needing to make small talk, ask someone who their favorite teachers was or what their favorite subject was when they were in school. And why.  Report back.

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