A few weeks ago I asked for your comments on education
It struck me that the people on the omenti post alert list are an extremely interesting lot and it would be great to gather some comments. Several of you are educators and a wide variety of backgrounds are represented by the others.
so the homework … and this is only for those who are interested is saying something
Write a short piece (one to a few paragraphs) on one or two significant bits from your k12 (or equivalent for those outside of the US) education. What made it good or bad? Was the focus right? How does it compare with your perception of today? How does it compare with other countries?… anything you want. Sign it anonymous if you like, but give the country where it took place and the half decade when you graduated (early 70s, late 80s, …)
In order of arrival is how you replied:
I'm female and graduated high school in rural Alberta in the early 2000s - so recent!
You asked a great question, and one that we should all spend time reflecting on. I originally wrote a very long response to your note, outlining numerous people and events that impacted my education. It wasn't one thing, or one person, it was the stringing together of significant experiences (successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses) over many years.
I grew up in Wisconsin in a very middle class family that went through divorce. The family side could be considered failure, but it opened up an entire world of exploration for me as my parents were off figuring out their own lives. I had to figure out a lot on my own. I had a thirst for knowledge about many things in life.
I have always been highly competitive (still not sure why) and from early on I was always in advanced math and science classes and it came very easy to me. However, I was always a slow reader - great comprehension but very slow at reading. My grade school had a reading program that was structured around a weekly competition of reading volume and comprehension. I won most weeks of this competition, but it probably took me a lot more time than others. Why did I spend the time? I liked to win! The system was structured to fit with my competitive nature. Without competition, I'm sure I would have focused on my strengths (math and science) and ignored my weaknesses. It's a good thing Twitter wasn't around - that would have been much easier to win by today's standards (based on watching my kids, it's about followers and creative Tweets).
In middle school and high school we didn't have reading competitions, but we did have 45 minutes of silent reading every day. At first I hated it. Fiction books were boring when it took as long as it did for me to read them. In 9th grade, the rules changed. We could read whatever interested us for 45 minutes. This gave me 45 minutes a day to explore newspapers and magazines. It was my favorite part of every day. I gained a great appreciation for reading about interesting new things around the world. And it wasn't reading from web pages - I had access to many paper-based publications in our library. I originally started with Sports Illustrated, and quickly moved on to a much more diverse collection of publications given the need to fill 45 minutes a day.
My educational institution created a competition to get me focused, and then forced me to take the time to explore things that were interesting to me. It won't work for all, but it worked for me. This way of operating has created a constant level of change in my learning that has allowed me to maintain interest in learning more. I knew everything as a teen and now know there is always something to learn and new experiences to string together.
Success in learning is not money, it's the stringing together of new experiences. It's even better if you care about those that you are sharing the experiences with.
I enjoyed K12 in the Netherlands in the 80's.
I guess the deeper question is that: given that there's a limited number of spots in top universities, and as long as these schools remain desirable, there'll still be kids (parents) that will try to game the admission process.
Let's hope there are more examples of universities that rely on different types of admission process (I think there's the new engineering school in Boston that uses something different, can't remember the name of it now)
The local flour mill was a big deal: employment and thrills: flour mills
explode. The 9th grade Science teacher (~1957) was wonderful. Two
experiments stand out: 1) 'Flour Mill Explosion' and 2) 'Leiden Jar
Human Chain Shock.' Great learning not be permitted today.
Flower Mill Explosion: Big metal New Era potato chip canister, 1'x2',
small hole in side for rubber tube feeding gas to a Bunsen burner
inside, another hole for a larger tube to allow the teacher to blow
vigorously into the bottom of a funnel. Put ~ 1/4 cup of flour into the
top of the funnel, light Bunsen burner, put top firmly back on canister,
back away and violently blow into the tube making a fine flour mist:
simulating flour dust and a spark in the mill. Result: a large ball of
fire, the top hits the 12' ceiling and the kids are 1) 'blown away' and
2) learn what its like to work at a flour mill. Impressive.
Leiden Jar Human Chain Shock: Charge a large Leiden jar with a spinning
wheel with double ended brushes - visually impressive. Have kids make a
ring around the jar holding hands. Kid at one end teacher at the other,
kids grabs post of jar, teacher grabs the other and CRACK! everyone gets
a jolt they never forget. Lesson electricity, even static, can pack a
wallop - be careful.
No summary - feel free to add your comments in the comments sections if you missed the "deadline" or feel the need to comment. Here is what I put together for mine:
Thinking specifically about school a few teachers come to mind - oddly enough both were history teachers.
I had Mr Wolff for world history in the 10th grade and the history of religion in the 12th. One of those amazing lecturers who made the subjects come alive, he also got into trouble with the school board for creating his own curriculum and was suspended for the religion course as it failed to emphasize that Christianity was the "right" religion. I corresponded with him in college and for years afterwards and was lucky to have him as a friend.
The other significant teacher was Ms Boe for 11th grade American history. She lectured and had no tests. The work consisted of a paper on two or three topics that was due every two weeks. It was the first class where I pushed myself. I'd spend at least an hour a day reading and preparing for the paper the first week with that doubling the second week. The papers were due on Mondays and most of Friday night and Saturday went to writing a draft with Sunday going into the final paper. She was a notoriously tough grader and I was the only student in her three periods to get an A for all of the grading periods. This was not talent based - somehow she lit a fire and inspired me. At first it was an attempt to get a good grade, but after a few months I came to love sitting in the school library and going to the public library to read. From about April on to the end of the term I ended the paper with a question I had. I don't know why, but it seemed reasonable. Then something remarkable happened - something that spoke very deeply and directly to me. A packet arrived in the mail a few weeks after I graduated. In it was a fifty or so page paper on the five or so questions I had asked.
They both taught because they had a love of learning. I haven't had a history class since the 12th grade and my education is far too narrow. But teachers like Joe Wolff and Beverly Boe, along with the postal mentors I had, lit something and started the process of learning how to learn. Something I'm still working on, but a thing of great value.
There were a number of ok teachers along the way and I'm sure I didn't appreciate many of them. There was too little of the arts and learning how to make things with my hands - although more than our local school system offers today. I picked up some of that myself, but it is even more important these days.
Really good and really simple.
Apple and Fennel Salad
° 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced
° 1 apple cored, but unpeeled, thinly sliced
° 2 tbl good quality extra virgin olive oil
° juice from a lemon
° 1 tbl honey
° a pinch of salt
° a bit of freshly ground black pepper
° mix the fennel and apple slice together in a bowl
° Whisk the oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper and drizzle over the fennel and apple