Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting it right the first time?

I never realized how different formal education can be from reality.  I am constantly aware of the many examples around me of genius that evolved from an original idea. Genius wasn't the original idea, it was the process.   Educators work within tight schedules and boundaries.  I have had to sit in doctor's offices, dentist offices, shoe stores, hair salons but never have I had to wait for a class to begin on time.  We are tied to schedules therefore we tie student performance to deadlines.  Seldom does a student edit or redo an assignment on their own.  Students hand work in on time and receive it back with highlighted corrections.  Seldom are these assignments handed back with the expectation that every student will redo them better, with more depth.
On our 2,500 mile journey west this summer, we spent day 2  in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I haven't been there since 1977 and now I was there with my daughter at that same age of seven. She listened and wondered why the original Liberty Bell was still there for all to see and was fascinated by the idea of ringing a sound equal to liberty. In Independence Hall  I listened to the tour guide  with more focus than I did when I was her age.  According to our guide, the original Declaration of Independence was signed here with only two signatures after 80 edits were made. A copy was published on major papers, sent throughout the colonies and not formally signed by the founders until August 2.
I realize that getting the words just right was far more important than the due date. Vetting this bold idea needed to happen amongst peers before presenting to a less forgiving body.
Our most important documents, the Declaration, the Constitution are meant to be revisited, challenged, amended. In analyzing their values, testing their longevity, there isn't one right answer. History is meant to give us stories to build from. I think my challenge as a 21st century educator will be to embrace the spirit of Philadelphia, encourage high expectations with attention to setting goals instead of ar deadlines. What if students could receive a credit for an English class whose soul focus was the editing and revision of student work from other classes.  What if they were responsible for learning how to teach grammar and peer review? Teachers would provide training, students' would engage in authentic practice.... hmm. Well, I included some images of a memorial to the diaspora of slaves forced to migrate to America.  Carved in stone are the names of Washington's slaves.  Slavery was definitely an idea much in need of a redo.
 Off to Wheeling WV tomorrow. Searching for more inspiration in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark


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