I have five degrees. Five! An Associate degree, a Bachelor’s degree with a double major, a Master of Arts degree, a Master of Science degree, and a Doctorate in Education. I love school.
And yet, even with all those fancy certificates, my boyfriend is smarter than me. He’s a welder. No fancy college degrees. But he can build and create and fix and imagine in ways my brain can’t comprehend.
Case in point: We bought a Jeep. A ’68 Jeep that hadn’t been loved in a very long time. It had been parked in a field for 15 years, stripped of its elements and left abandoned to nature. No seats. No pedals. No steering assembly. All wiring stripped and sitting in a pile in the cab. Rusty nuts and bolts that belong somewhere filled a coffee can.
And yet he is rebuilding it. There’s no manual for this. No YouTube video series that connects all the dots. He has to figure it out. He IS figuring it out. Sometimes with parts that are there. Sometimes with new parts he is purchasing. And sometimes with parts he fabs up on his own. Watching him work mesmerizes me. His ability to see in three dimensions, and to understand the interdependency of systems and how they contribute to the overall form and function, is a form of genius I don’t possess.
I share all this with you not just because I am insanely proud of his skills (although I am!), but because I think it’s important to remember that there is not one best way to learn. As much as I love school and books and conversations about school and books, John would shrivel up in that environment.
Our experiences often have a greater impact on us than degrees ever will!
— Jonathan Spike (@Mr_JSpike)
When I started play teaching my dolls and neighborhood friends at age six, I knew everything and dispensed my knowledge to them through worksheets I drew, and books I read, and homework I made them complete (my poor friends!). When I started actual teaching twenty years later, not much had changed. I still made worksheets for my students, and read books with (and to) them, and assigned homework. Over the years, I learned and adapted to a 1:1 environment, and brought in Genius Hour and Project Based Learning. But sadly, and I am not proud to admit this, I controlled much of the learning structure in my room.
But our role as teachers is changing. We need to be cognizant of the needs of our learners. All our learners. Not just the ones that are compliant. Not just the ones that are college bound. Not just the ones that look like and sound like we do.
And part of that change is the realization that the best way to support a learner may simply be to get out of his/her way and let the learning figure itself out, like it does for John.
If you like Jeeps, or just watching things come to life, feel free to follow along via Instagram @wabisabi68jeep as we get this thing desert ready!
I think you hit the nail on the head when you referred to ‘playing school’. Growing up, I tortured my own little brother with ‘worksheets’ and ‘handwriting’ and he suffered in a system that did not (and still does not) honor the non-traditional learner. I could not agree more; provide the tools for learning how to think, not what to think, and then we should get out of their way. Thank you, Laura.
Stacy, I tortured my little brother as well. He had some learning difficulties early on, and I just couldn’t make him see why a b and a d were not the same letter. My worksheets and chalkboard letters weren’t cutting it…lol… He struggled throughout school, more out of boredom and a refusal of teachers to see that A) He wasn’t a mini-Laura B) He had an artistic talent they should develop and C) Forcing authoritarian power on him wasn’t going to engage him.