Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Learning is Serious Work.

I just watched a TED lecture about being an inspiring speaker and the graphic and speech (yes, it was inspiring) gave me an "aha" moment.  And, of course the speaker used one of my favorite words:  WHY?

Why did I decide to home-school our children and why am I working on a game which is a tool for students to determine if college may be a good direction?  Well, I had to go back to kindergarten for the beginning.

I was a challenging child because at that point I was an only child and had lots of attention from all of the adults in my life.  School was a foreign concept, and the idea of being in a group of kids my own age following rules for the herd, and competing was a very FOREIGN concept.  But, when one was five years old with both parents working to provide, and living in a rural community, one goes to kindergarten.

My memories from kindergarten are sketchy but I do remember drawing a large giraffe and then trying to erase it because I wasn't happy with my picture.  I remember pink frosted animal cookies and running in the hall when I wasn't supposed to.  And, then I have these two very, very distinct memories.

Remember Weekly Reader?  It was a staple of kindergarten and if my memory serves me there was a story and an activity.  Well, once, the activity focused on putting plums in a pie.  Okay, okay, everyone knows the "little Jack Horner" rhyme.  I knew what was coming so I drew my plums in the pie.  CUT TO BIG PROBLEM!!!!

My teacher, who was a well-respected and very capable lady who had taught for years, made me stand in the corner.

 This was a very large moment in my young life.  I did not connect it to disobeying (a major point of classroom teaching).  I connected it to having an original thought.

So, that was the

Remember our friend, Plato?

"With anything young and tender the most important part of the task is the beginning of it; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression most readily taken."  Plato, The Republic

Years and years go by filled with lots of stories, and when I have children I send them off to school.  But, I, also go to school.  And, even with that sometimes it is not enough.

WHY do other people get to make decisions about how to EDUCATE my children?

WHY did other people get to make those decisions about MY EDUCATION?

LEARNING is serious work.  I am not the end all expert but I am invested in my children getting what they need.  And, I know the importance of asking WHY.

[What is "learning"?  In my experience, you have learned something if you can pull it out and use it after you figured it out.  And, to do that, either you have to want to use it or there has to be a really good reason for using it.]

Why did I decide to home-school our children and why am I working on a game which is a tool for students to determine if college may be a good direction?  I did and I am because I believe that learning is serious work and I want to make it COUNT.  I'm like him -- sometimes you have to forge in a different direction and sometimes you have to see opportunities that others may not be able to see yet.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

There is a story that keeps replaying in my life.  It is about the big shots and the little guys.

 The big shots are the people who got the As in school, became the prom king and queen or won the football game.  They got into their top college choice, went on to graduate with honors and got a great job with a big firm.  They don't pay a lot of taxes and probably vote Republican.  They have all of the
power and do not really care about the little guys.

 Oh yeh, the little guys.

The little guys are the ones who really do the work, have hourly jobs, don't make a lot of money.  The little guys were always too shy or felt too unconfident to raise their hands in class.  They may have gone to college, but only with great financial difficulty.  They were there for their family.  And, they probably voted Democrat.

The little guys read about people who were movers and shakers in the world but couldn't imagine themselves ever really making a difference.  The big shots were too busy getting ahead to care.  And, neither character ever really had the chance to be developed into an actual being.

Beam up to NOW.  The world is a complicated place with lots of undeveloped characters who think of themselves as big shots and little guys.

  But, really, the world is a big, sometimes simple place full of complicated characters.  Nothing is really that difficult to understand.  Power comes in many colors, styles and boxes.  Getting someplace requires taking steps.  Dreams are a great rudder.  If you don't believe you can do something it doesn't matter how big your cheering section it.

I learned to embrace humility by looking at a mountain and a lake this summer.  They were not made by a big shot or a little guy.  Regardless of your belief in God, Higher Power, Buddha or whatever, you cannot argue with a mountain or a lake.  And, I can talk and talk about what I want to do, but, the bottom line is that I know I can make things better.  Just me.  I am a little guy who has been tossed in the sea of people who I thought knew more and better.  I am a big shot who has through the generosity of others had some pretty wonderful options.  And, through my own curiosity, courage and grit I have taken many small steps and gone places.  And, I although I have voted both Democrat and Republican, I am real and not defined by a political label.  (I may always have the belief that just saying "game over" and starting anew or withholding the bathroom is the only way of cleaning up the world's political issues.)

So, I was looking back at posts and picked out some moments that speak to me now:

(1) "My name is Sal Khan.  I'm the founder and original faculty of the Khan Academy, an institution serious about delivering a free education to anyone, anywhere, and I'm writing this book because I believe that the way we teach and learn is at a once-in-a-millennium turning point." (Introduction, The One World Schoolhouse--Education Reimagined)

(2) I remember as a teenager thinking about what I wanted to do, and it wasn't creating an entirely new product--it was making things better.

 BASF We make things better.

And, now, I am doing it AGAIN.

(3) "Quiet persistence"  I had to read almost all of Quiet  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain) to stumble on "...excellent students seem not only to possess the cognitive ability to solve math and science problems, but also to have a useful personality characteristic:  quiet persistence." (201)  This was right after the Mahatma Gandhi quote:  In a gentle way, you can shake the world  and "Aggressive power beats you up; soft power wins you over." (197)

1.  Is going to college worth it because of the cost and outcome?
2.  Do kids learn skills and content in high school that is really valuable, or is it just a grind?
3.  Does high school and college prepare a student for finding a job and really living in the world?

And, for those questions I am convinced I can help find answers.  (IT IS OK TO ASK WHY)

(4) What is "learning"?  In my experience, you have learned something if you can pull it out and use it after you figured it out.  And, to do that, either you have to want to use it or there has to be a really good reason for using it.

So, yes, I am going to invite people who are considering college to ask themselves if it will provide what they are looking for.  And, yes, I am going to give writing a book about the Grateful Dead's influence on our lives a try.  And, YES, I am going to own the experience of home schooling and write about that, too.  And, it's not going to be perfect, but it will be worth it.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For  or Have I?