It is the Journey Stupid!

One of my hobbies is running. It has become a ritual part of my day and I really look forward to my routine. I love the crisp fall air, the scenery, and the time to clear my head and think in ways I am not allowed to when I am not running. The other day I was talking with a fellow I used to run races with and he told me he no longer enjoyed running because he was no longer competitive and he did not get the rush of finishing fast in a race. As I thought about what he told me, I became saddened that all running mean’t to him was finishing well or winning a race. I thought it was terrible he had given up running because the product was no longer the same for him. For me, running is more than finishing. It is a part of my day that I look forward to. I know, because of injuries, that it is a hobby that I really miss when I cannot get my daily run in. To me it is more than a race or a way of showing how fast I am (trust me, it is not pretty!), it is something that makes my life more rewarding. I think in so many ways our culture is too fixated the end of a process, getting the payoff, and does not pay enough attention to all the steps involved. I am convinced that our society has become so fixated on the final product, the end of a procedure, getting a grade, finishing a project that we forget the richness of the journey. Do we read a book to find out what happens at the end? If so, why do we not just read the end! Have we lost the wonderful sensation of being totally engrossed in a project and losing the concept of time, sleep and even hunger? I can remember teaching about a very interesting part of history or having a great discussion about Psychology and a student would ask me is this going to be on the test?…. and thinking to myself…is that all you really care about? I always hated reducing what we had done for two weeks in class to one page of terms and concepts that were going to be on the assessment for the unit. It seemed cheap. That the final part of the journey was simply a dry run through the information without looking at what had really been explored. Like running, learning is more than just the end product. If you look at the grade card, do you really know what has been learned? If you look at my running times (please don’t) will you really see how running affects me and what the journey of running does for me both physically and mentally? Learning is about trying and failing, regrouping and succeeding. It is collaborating, making relationships and networking. When I run, my practice looks a lot like a race…..or parts of one. Is our learning environment in school anything like what will be experienced outside of the schoolhouse walls? Will there be a study guide to help us prepare when the assessment is about getting the job done in our chosen profession. We spend a lot of our time teaching our students how to do high school and not enough time engaging them and preparing them to harness their passions to do something they enjoy while being productive. SOMETIMES I HAVE TO REMIND MYSELF….IT IS THE JOURNEY STUPID! (p.s. I am going to go running through a glen sometime soon ;-))

9 thoughts on “It is the Journey Stupid!

  1. Couldn't agree more. While my policy on running is simply not to do it unless I am being chased and hiding didn't work, I feel that way about a lot of other stuff. When my wife and I drove down to Atlanta this past summer, we decided to leave early and just take our time getting there. It didn't matter what time we arrived at our destination, it was still going to be there; we simply made up our mind to enjoy the peaceful enjoyment of a road trip. We do the same thing on the motorcycle. We just take off without any real destination in mind. We ride until we want to stop and stop until we feel like riding again.

    I remember becoming frustrated with my students last year while working on a big paper because they didn't actually DO the assignment; they just looked at the rubric and started trying to check boxes. Somehow, we have turned the joy of learning into a checklist: three sources, check; five pages, check; MLA formatting, check. The problem with this way of thinking is that the actual content of the papers is horrible because the point is to express what was learned. If the only focus is checking boxes, no learning actually happens. I doubt those students learned a thing about their chosen topics.

    I spent a great deal of time talking to them about how different their high school experience could be if they approached things from the standpoint of, "What can I learn today?" instead of, "I need to fill out this worksheet and then read the words in that chapter."

    I remember learning about the great minds of the past having a teacher/mentor that lead them on a path of knowledge. Did Socrates give Plato a grade on anything? Did Plato give Aristotle homework? No. They just spent their time reading and writing for the pure joy of learning and exploring all that is out there in the vast universe we inhabit.

    I guess I have kind of written my own mini-blog as a comment to this one, but I just keep asking myself how can we get back to learning for the sake of learning in this new age of check box students?

  2. Would it be alright if I based my grades only on what I felt the students were bringing to the class? Nothing's due, no tests, just discussions, questions and answers. Depending on how involved they are, and how much they seemed to understand, would determine their grade. If the whole class doesn't feel like engaging in our conversation, too bad for them, because every day we don't discuss something related to our class will lower everyone's grade.

    In the real world, I don't see this working. I wish it would, though

  3. Running is not so bad. Hiding works too! It is hard to reach into your students' experiences and grab hold of their passions. It happened rarely in my teaching experiences, but when it happened it was amazing. Keep trying to find their passions….You just might find your own, if you have not already.

  4. The more I read your posts and the responses of others, the more I think about my ideas for what education should look like. I think I need to seriously consider taking my ideas and working with others towards creating an actual workable plan that could be implemented on a trial basis somewhere.

    To clarify, my idea is for students to take courses that are taught by two or three teachers from different disciplines, with the goal not to be covering so many chapters in a book, but to accomplish some product. These projects would be carefully planned by the team of teachers to address state learning standards, and students would be completing a wide variety of tasks to ensure they are learning the same things they are learning now, but the context for the learning would be real.

  5. I like Mr. Ogle's comment about his vision of a school. There are fundamentals that have to be taught. I watch the students in room A20 struggle because they have not had the advantage of having someone explain the material to them. Some need that but don't want to take the time to ask questions because it slows them down. Instead they just type answers in and wait for the submission to be graded. Once graded, the student goes back and guesses again until he/she gets the A. Has that student learned anything? No, that student has checked the box.

    Students, parents, teachers, and the community at large have to be trained in any new method of instruction. If we want students to be a part of a group and produce a product to "sell," then all stakeholders have to buy into that way of instruction. If they don't, then we have chaos and anger when grades are distributed and someone didn't get the grade they wanted because their group didn't meet the demands. In the "real world," we all have to work with a team, and we are all going to feel the consequences of those who do not do their part. However, all stakeholders have to agree that this is where the bulk of learning will take place…when students take control of their own learning and rely on others to help them get to a finished product…before it truly becomes successful and relevant.

  6. I agree Gary. We have to keep communicating our vision! The more we talk about it, the more we have our students work towards those goals the closer we will come to reaching it….the movement is going in the right direction!

  7. When I read Gary's post about the students in A20, I think that maybe the idea of having an alternative to classroom instruction for some kids is good, but our delivery system is flawed. Colleges offer online courses that are effective because they are an actual class delivered online rather than a series of readings with tests that can be taken and re-taken. I found a web service that allows teachers to create online classes for free. Could our alternative school be an online school of this nature? The students could still come use our resources since many of them don't have adequate computer access at home, but instead of using canned instructional materials, teachers could create online courses with video lectures, online discussions, assignments submitted electronically and graded by actual teachers. Just an idea.

  8. I think we need to wait to judge our program in A20. We certainly have some challenges and don't doubt what Mr. Doughan is saying. We must look at some of the successes some students are having also. Not all students are just guessing. I welcome you to join us when we meet about the alternative school. I would be interested in teachers developing online content!

  9. Let me know when and where, and I will do my best to make it. I did some experimenting last night on that website. It is called NiceNet. I believe they are having a workshop about it at Eastern in the coming months. It was very simple to create a class, and from what I have seen, it has just about everything you would need to conduct a class online, and it is free.

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