Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Well, School's Out!

Yes, I know it is July 3. For me, school is finally out. I agreed to be a teacher for summer school this year. I had some fun days. I had some frustrating days. I tried to make it fun for kids who ended up in my math class, kids who confess they did not like math during the school year. Many of them said their parents made them take the class. (The other class I taught was an exploring hobbies class, more about that another time.)

We played math games for a month. I tried really hard to teach them about 20 words from the math standards vocabulary and how to multiply, add, and subtract fractions. I tried to make it simple. I taught decimal equivalents. I think some of them they learned by rote. We read lots of story problems. We made chocolate chip cookies.

I learned a lot.

Yeah. I'm not sure how much they learned, but I learned a lot.

I had a professor in college that uttered the truest thing any of my professors ever said. It was the last lecture in an economics course I took as a Senior. He said, "You will forget 90% of everything you learn these four years of college. The 10 % you will remember is how to use information and where to find what you need to know. The key to this is asking good questions."

Ironically, I don't remember the name of the professor who uttered these words of wisdom in a time before microwave ovens, calculators, DVD, VCR, iPhone, etc...the panoply of tech devices rolls on from when I was in college.

I do think this small bit of wisdom, "this 10%", is the important part, however. Every so often I repeat this bit of wisdom to teenagers, who I think need to come up with someway to rationalize and organize their lives.

These teenagers, who every so often, surprise me.

In the last five years, I have noticed kids have a lot more technology at their thumb tips than I ever thought possible. I think this has changed them. What they can research in five minutes would have taken me six weeks to find out when I was their age, and if I spelled it wrong, I never would have found it, period. If I wanted to know what my friends thought of something, I would have had to write them, or beg my parents to allow me to make a long distance phone call (on a land line, possibly through an operator-- do we even have people who do that job any longer?). If I wanted to show my friends a picture of a cool banner I saw at a greenhouse, I would have had to have thought to have my camera on me, taken the picture, hoped for the best and gotten it developed-- which would have take a week, and then either had copies made and mailed them (another week or so).

If I made a typo, I would have had to find my correction fluid or white out and fixed it. By the way, I make a lot of typos. And they are generally typos, not spelling errors, but spell-check catches them right away, with its nasty red, squiggly line.

Handsome Son is a teenager and I spend a lot of time in our schools and I try to actually listen to the young people who spend a lot of their time there, too. I think I know where they are coming from and why. Often I worry about a world where these teens will be adults, a world I will be sharing with them.

At my age, I am easily old enough for my son to be my grandson. I often make the comment that I sit on the wrong side of the digital divide. I know a lots of people ten years younger than I am who have really not gotten the whole thing about computers beyond email, texting and taking pictures on their phones and playing Farmville. Most of my acquaintances are not on Facebook. Some of my friends aren't.

My mother does not know what a blog is.

So how do these generations separated by technology work together in one world?

I think this is one of the reasons blogs have pictures and the Internet is so image driven. What happens in a world where a picture may come to literally say a thousand words to our young people, where the world's content is conveyed in images, where these images and video can go viral and pictures develop as memes?

I have a friend to the north whose blog motto is, "Be a Joy-giver." Her blog is filled with very joyous pictures of our world, whether that in a quietude and appreciation of its beauty, or a raucous assembly of incredible images. It all comes down to a single idea, joy.

Our young people can not imagine a quiet world, a world with out constant collaboration, exploration, comment, and critique. They see a world where technology is necessary, not a plus one. Their boundaries have overlapped and personal spaces have shrunk like a Venn diagram.

And they don't get it when we don't get it. And they question why they should learn this or that. And, maybe they should.

They want things to move fast. They need to be occupied by more than one thing at a time. They need noise; the noise is how their brains are wired. They explore everything in a tactile way; if it is there to touch, they do. They are re-writing our language as I type, because they are typing this message faster.

"Thay r typng this messg fastr. Can't u c that?"

So today, this last day of summer school, several of my students during each and every class gave be a hug. My last hour class lined up to hug me. I was completely taken aback. One girl even took the time to hand-make a very pretty stamped card on nice, patterned paper. For kids, whose attention span is like that of butterflies, it is incredibly nice.

I've had random hugs from Kinders, and first and second graders, but generally this hugging thing drops off dramatically by about second grade. These kids were middle-schoolers. Like I said, I've learned some things, too.

So, as I have a sneaky suspicion that the pictogram in the banner says, "
Live, laugh, play."

It's probably what it is all about. Our young people know we probably should not be wasting too much time on the other stuff.

So have a nice summer. More garden blogging soon.


  1. I was browsing from since morning in search of music notes in that search sudden i got your post its really nice and interesting also.

  2. You must be doing something very right to be getting all those hugs. I'm not a teacher or much of a techie, but one thing I know from watching my kids and my own student days: the kid's relationship with the teacher is the most important thing to a child's eduction, way more important than technology. Maybe not at the college level, but certainly up until that point. So many people who want to "reform" schools don't seem to get that.

    Have a great summer.