Sunday, April 02, 2006

A needed vacation, but now...

After a short, well-deserved break I've come back to "school-think" today. I've spent an hour or so catching up on Karl's blogs (most of which I thoroughly enjoyed - really) and procrastinating so that I don't have to start the grading process. But I've also been reflecting.

My 4 year old son and I enjoyed three days snowboarding (me)/skiing (him) in Vail as my daughter was at school and my wife at work. Adam skis as often as possible - about 20 times this year - and is getting pretty good. He followed me into an Experts Only area, exercised some caution (at first) and descended into the back bowls. The lift operator was fairly surprised to see him, asking his age, and then making Adam feel ten feet tall. On the way up the lift, I thought about how Adam got to that point.

1. He developed an interest in learning how to ski because his sister was doing it and that meant she got to spend more time doing something with Mom and Dad AND she liked it.

2. He had a series of teachers. Some pushed him to get better and challenged him to do new things which helped him get better quickly. (Quick plug for A Basin - about half the price of other areas and much more likely to get the kids off of the beginner hill quickly! Avoid the touristy resorts for lessons as they keep young ones from pushing themselves.) They helped him find fun in the challenge.

3. His parents let the teachers teach and then allowed him to show what he knew and were excited about his success. (And yes, liked to brag a bit!)

4. His parents let him take risks.

So what is my point (other than my hope that he has a better attitude than Bode Miller)? Isn't that what we want education to be. Students, we hope, will have the desire to learn. They will find their passions. They will take risks. They will look for new ways to apply their knowledge and skills. They will work to improve themselves. Their parents will be supportive. And we, as teachers will simply provide them the tools for them to be successful, motivated them to take risks, help them fix their mistakes, and prepare them to enter that Experts Only terrain we call life.

How do we do this in an environment that they didn't necessarily choose to enter? We make sure that they do have a positive role in that environment to at least create meaning from their learning. We make our actions and topics relevent to their experience. We introduce them to tools for tomorrow, not yesterday. We let them teach each other and US. We accept that they, and we, will crash sometimes and hope that when they/we do, they/we jump up laughing as we realize it was still worth the risk.

And then we finish with the Lobster Bisque and Espresso Gremolata at Sweet Basil... or at least Adam and I did.


Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Very well said. (On a side note, I'm trying to figure out how to introduce Abby to skiing since neither Jill nor I do - other than a little bit of cross country skiing). Plus, we're pretty much the overprotective, only-child parents when it comes to physical things.

I think risk-taking is going to be a big part of any successful changes we are able to make. Both on our parts and our students' parts. And I think concepts like meaningful, relevance, and passion are going to be key as well. And I think we as teachers are going to have to figure out how to frame the learning experience, but then pretty much get out of the way.

Finally, lobster bisque and espresso gremolata? I don't even really know what those are, but they don't sound like nutritional choices that are going to help lower our insurance rates . . .

5:16 PM  
Blogger James H said...

I think that you make some good points and I agree with what you are saying. I think that we struggle more in the school environment because we are teaching golfers how to ski. Motivation is the biggest challenge that we face because many of these students do not want to get on the slopes.

9:27 AM  

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