Best of Both Worlds
I don’t remember facts from my elementary school. I remember getting under the desk for bomb drills. I remember being allowed to jump out of swings from as high as I could. I remember helping out in the library shelving books. I remember riding my bike home to have a hot lunch my Mom had fixed for me and getting back before the lunch period was over. I remember a holiday gift I made my Mom in 3rd grade because it took a long time and was actually fired in a kiln. I remember two specific learning episodes with teachers where I was held up to the class as an example. I remember playing kickball, walking home (I don’t remember there being busses), and running in a cornfield that bordered the school playground.
I don’t remember spelling lessons or math lessons or english lessons or lessons from science or art or music or PE or library or history or anything else I may have been taught. I mean, I guess I was, because I’m not an ignorant person–but those aren’t the things that make me who I am.
I remember the things I cared about–being annoyed under the desk, being chosen to shelve books, being a part of a group playing kickball, taking risks jumping out of the swing (and yes, at least once I fell and went to the office to get my skinned knees cleaned up)–but I came back and continued to jump out of them and hang upside down on the monkey bars (no hands!), and run through the cornfield playing tag.
I remember in High School that I couldn’t grasp geometry–and my Mom worked with me to see it as a puzzle, a game to figure out–and I grew to love all kinds of math. I remember she and I played Scrabble EVERY Sunday afternoon after our Sunday dinner was done and we spent the majority of the afternoon waiting on one another to look through the dictionary for the perfect word that was the best match for our letters. I learned patience and persistence and my vocabulary grew through those games. I remember my parents teaching me I was to respect my elders–because if I got in trouble at school for being disrespectful, I’d be in more trouble with them. I remember being taught to care for others and our world.
But I don’t remember tests being a huge part of my schooling. I don’t remember studying and memorizing facts or disconnected pieces of information. I don’t remember being anxious in school or feeling afraid to fail. I do remember working hard on assignments and feeling proud of what I accomplished. I loved to read, but I don’t EVER remember doing a worksheet on a book in elementary school. I remember spending hours sitting outside in a tree or on our porch reading and I do remember doing math homework…but mainly I remember just being responsible (mostly) about going to school and learning.
So what did school teach me or give me time to learn?
It gave me time to take risks and become adventurous.
It rewarded me for doing well.
It taught me persistence and hard work makes one successful.
It taught me family and friends are important.
It taught me to take care of our world.
It taught me to try things, and that it was okay to not be good at it from the get go.
It taught me to not give up and try again.
As a child, I never thought that I would ever write words that would be read by many people from many countries as my words on this blog are. I never thought I would engage in Twitter conversations or be followed by thousands of people that are interested in my thoughts.
But kids today DO have some expectation of being heard by many. They do expect that they can create a video or write a blog post that may go viral. They do expect that they can use technology to create something that may make them famous and/or rich. They do expect their phones to connect them to their friends and families and yes, even strangers, instantaneously. They do expect to be able to learn both in and out of school–and learn out of school however they want to learn, about whatever they choose.
So why can’t schools today teach the best of both worlds–like the experiences I had to learn risk-taking, perseverance, resilience, how to work hard, how to fail and try again, etc., and the experiences kids can have today with technology to personalize their own learning? Our kids deserve both.
So as many of us begin a new September, a new school year, a new class, let’s give our students what we know they need–the best of both the world of yesterday and the world of today so that they will build the worlds of tomorrow well.