The great educator Horace Mann was once asked what was needed to insure an excellent education. He replied:
“It’s simple. You put a great teacher on one end of a log and a great student at the other end.”
When I told this to my daughter Talia when she was around 10, she asked:
“Why do you need the log?”
I had to think a moment and then came up with: “Well, the log gives you something interesting to observe, pay attention to, to generate questions. What bugs live in here? How old was the tree? What kind of tree? How long will it take to decay and how does that contribute to the cycle of growth and decay? What can we make from the wood? A drum? A xylophone? A part of a house?” And so on. School is on!
Talia became a 5thgrade teacher and I witnessed some of her finest work this summer with her nephew (my grandson) Malik on a Lake Michigan beach. She wrote letters in the sand with a stick and tested him on his sounds. Then she increased the technology a notch by getting a store-made marker and writing letters on rocks which they then re-arranged to make words. When he seemed a bit tired, they jumped into the lake for some refreshment and then returned back to Beach School.
If we were just a bit more creative, knowing that the virus is much less easily spread outdoors and with masks when needed and social distance, Beach School or Park School or Walking Through City School could be a way to navigate the pandemic until the vaccine comes along. If not every day, at least once a week? But instead, it’s retreat to the machine. And though I’ve been singing some of those praises (see blogpost on The Zoom Connection), I highly recommend considering the outdoors alternative. Instead, here is what Talia is going through and trust me, she is not happy. (This from a Facebook post she recently wrote):
“This morning, after I had arranged my desk (which I bought to replace my dining room table- goodbye dinner parties, hello work from home) with two computers, each with eight Google Meet rooms open, using a tab extension I downloaded and I had double-checked that my video was off but my mic was on and I had downloaded the mute tab extension to mute each window individually and queued up the morning meditation song on my phone and plugged the iPad with the morning meeting notes with the special connector I ordered to the computer and started the Quicktime app to project the iPad and used a random name generator to makes groups for the day and screenshot it and uploaded it to the morning meeting notes and sifted through four crates of picture books that now live in my bedroom to find the right one and signed into the Google Meet app on my phone and secured it into the bendy phone holder arm to frame the book just right and minimized Safari with its 23 tabs, 12 of which were You Tube app tutorials and checked the background to make sure the wine wasn’t in the frame and the dirty dishes weren’t overflowing, I slid a green puppet named Kermy onto my hand, knelt down onto the ground, cleared my throat and entered the meet loudly announcing in a nasally voice each student’s name as they tumble in one by one, their squares bopping each other’s around into neat rows. I strain my neck up to get a glimpse of their nonplussed reactions, careful to keep my hair out of the frame. I scroll down to take attendance with my right hand while Kermy directs the kids to write how they’re feeling in the chat and quickly and politely asks them to respect our digital class norms and please keep poop emojis out of the chat.
This job has always been weird, but it’s definitely gotten a lot weirder.”
Beach School, anyone?