Writing is thinking. I would deeply appreciate your thoughts on these 7 questions – please feel encouraged to add your voice in the comments field. As you can see from my pondering, my thinking is not wholly formed yet either. Don’t let formative thinking prevent you from contributing to our growing understandings…
As part of The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference, on Thursday morning, June 14, I am so very privileged to serve on a panel with featured speakers John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie) and Dr. Sande Dawes (not sure of a Twitter handle), and we have been asked to consider the following questions:
- What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1?
- What is understanding and how does it develop?
- How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself?
- If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions?
- What are some practices that you’ve seen for implementing 21st century skills in the classroom?
- How can you foster a school culture that promotes this kind of learning?
- If we are serious about excellence in our classrooms/schools then what questions should we be asking?
Playing with my thinking by writing to see what I think… (“scratches on the surfaces”)
- What are your thoughts and reflections from Day 1? Much of Day 1 centered around John Hunter and the World Peace Game. At the day’s beginning, as a collected whole of community, we viewed a new cut of World Peace and Other 4th Grade Accomplishments (extended trailer linked here). At day’s end, we were blessed to listen to a keynote from John Hunter. As I increasingly consider myself a student of John Hunter’s approach to teaching and learning, I am struck by his intentional creation of space and opportunity for students to engage with the world in a way that is paradoxically the real world and a simulation of the real world. Through the World Peace Game, Hunter provides a multilayer, complex simulation in which students take on role play as United Nations ambassadors, kings of monarchical domains, presidents of democracies, arms dealers, World Bank officials, etc. Participants (4th graders) get into character and face life-like simulations involving global climate change, war, economic opportunity and crisis, fuel dilemmas, etc. And they real-life interact with each other in collaboration and conflict. John blurs the line between school and life, and he allows for (demands that) students stretch their brains and hearts as real, empathetic, problem-creating and problem-solving humans on the world stage. He lets questions linger and fill the atmosphere. He mixes in critical content…in context. He trusts and empowers children to rule and lead and serve the world. And they do. They measure up to the expectations because of the relationship and confidence that Hunter models and spreads to his learners and leaders. At the conclusion of the day, Hunter revealed that the World Peace Game is a “trick” or a Trojan Horse as Jamie Baker referred to it in a question to Hunter. The game is designed to fail. The only way for real success is for students to hyper-focus on collaboration and beating the game rather than on each other. He provides an emptiness for the students to fill with trial and error, argument and compromise, inhumanity and humanity. The game is just the string on which to hang the lights and enlightenment. Hunter also revealed that a trick to “teaching for tomorrow” is to work together with other teachers. And that’s how we spent the time sandwiched between the opening movie and the closing keynote. We exchanged ideas, motivations, practices, and possibilities. We built our understanding of our calling and our days’ work as a collective community of educators – those who commit ‘educare’ – to draw out that which is already there.
- What is understanding and how does it develop? I believe “understanding” is a journey of hypotheses testing and re-trialing. I think understanding is constructed through learning by doing. I see understanding as akin to a sailboat tacking back and forth to reach a destination that cannot be reached in a straight line due to alternating currents and winds. When I listen to students who return to school as alumni recount what they remember and cherish, I come to love that understanding is gained through experience, failure, resilience, and fortitude. Understanding exists with a core of empathy, a sheath of curiosity, and a outershell of permeable attempts at discerning. It is a layering on. Yet, understanding is also a carving out of our being – like a sculptor revealing what lies in a monolith of granite. Service leads to deep understanding. Love is understanding at its purest sense.
- How can you best inspire and nurture creative thinking and problem solving in your students and yourself? Tear down the walls that segregate school and real life. At life’s beginning we are made lifelong learners through curiosity, attempts to engage and taste and feel our environment. Then we start to box and segregate the interconnected pieces of learning and understanding. I think we can nurture creative thinking by trusting our students to wade in and deal with conflict and confusion. We can model and guide toward empathy and coaching about the needs and issues of our world. We can play to the passions of our students by KNOWING them and encouraging their pursuits while layering in the critical components from the various ways of thinking and learning. We can create space and time for them to create and problem solve. We can manifest our own versions of things like John Hunter’s World Peace Game, Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School, Kiran Bir Sethi’s Riverside School, etc.
- If teachers, students and parents are generally satisfied with their schools, why should their schools consider moving in new directions? As the world changes, so must our schools. We need to design schools to be leadership centers for research and development, as well as implementation, for addressing the real issues that we face in our world – poverty, hunger, racial discord, fuel crises, water and energy mismanagement, etc. We need to make sure that school is preparing students for the citizenship that our world yearns for and craves. Are we?
Foiled by time again! I’ll keep thinking. I would LOVE and CHERISH your thoughts and ideas in the comments!
Sir Adams! I am hoping and trusting that today goes well…thoughts and prayers to you, brother! I am especially zoned in on the topic of understanding, and I think there’s also an essential follow-up to the tinkering and learning by doing that you so beautifully and essentially note. I think there needs to be an opportunity to observe, reflect, digest, deeply think and ponder about…and do so with necessary space and time. I think this can be fueled by a balance between collaboration and deliberate solitude and quiet. I think understanding takes time, and one thing that I fear we are lacking in our 21st century fast-paced world is the opportunity to dig deep, explore, but then have the time and the quiet to digest it all rather than moving on to the next adventure. Hope those two cents make a thud in the piggy bank, friend. THANK YOU FOR YOU.
Carter, thank you so much for taking time to write and post a comment. I really appreciate knowing that your voice will be with mine today. You and John Hunter, both extraordinary educators, agree that space and time are essential for understanding. We have to leave room for the bouquets to breathe and the paint to dry, don’t we?!