Tuesday, October 13, 2009

the culture of learning, campus disruptus

Last night, the Clear Spring elementary students were camping in the rain. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last. In fact, when I was a Clear Spring School parent, I went many times along with my daughter Lucy on the school camp outs as a parent volunteer and school camping trips are not always in the best of weather. Parents don't go just to hang out but only to become part of the teaching force.

I have begun reading Clayton Christensen's book Disrupting Class, How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. I will have more to report on that later. But what comes to mind at the moment, reflecting on the camping experience and Christensen's book is that teaching is structural, learning is cultural. Teachers become teachers having passed through a system, and having adopted its means. A carpenter will teach his apprentice by putting a hammer in his hands, and by giving occasional demonstrations with some verbal instruction. A common teacher (and this is not to imply any are not uncommon) will teach utilizing the models presented to him or her through their own education. They become teachers within a structural form due to their affinity with that form. And it is difficult to stand aside from that form when its teaching style is lacking in effectiveness for the learning styles of the children involved.

Disrupting class is an essential activity for those students whose needs are not being met. It usually doesn't work, however. Teachers and administrations are taught to have zero tolerance for the slippery slope of disruption.

The Clear Spring School campout is not an easy thing. It is not easy for students or staff. It brings kids out of the classroom into real life. And real life isn't restricted to meeting the needs of particular types of learners. And that is what I mean when I say that learning is cultural. It pulls in and reflects the full diversity of human learning styles.

This morning the students and staff awakened to heavy rain, and the balance of the camping trip was canceled. It meant a breakfast prepared under sad circumstances and then the hauling of wet gear back to school and wet clothing home. As one student proclaimed, "This the best worst time I have ever had." So while the camping trip was disrupted, the kids are tested in spirit and resilience.

Today in wood shop my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students worked on the recycling box for the school campus which is shown in the photos above, adding trim to cover errors from hand-sawn cuts and adding rustic handles inspired by the coat rack they made earlier in the year.

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