Before I get started, I just want to say – this post is personal. The central character is my beautiful, talented, creative granddaughter, who has actually played a prominent role in all my posts so far. But this post is different. It is one grandmother’s wish for her granddaughter.
Secondly, the post is about Korea, but it isn’t.
Okay, the groundwork is laid.
My granddaughter learns much everyday, but much of her daily learning has nothing to do with high school subjects. What she learns about most days has to do with what she is curious about. I asked her to make a collage of things she is curious about. This is her montage.
As you can see (or perhaps not see), much of her interests lies in Korea, in K-pop bands,(the picture in the middle is of a k-pop band entitled BTS), in creative arts, (YG entertainment group in top left), in dance (IM is a dance studio in Korea), in food (especially Korean food), and in the Korean language (the text on the top right) and in the connections she has with people all around the world that share her same interests. Extending out from this, East Asian culture and history interests her as does Italian ballet, hip hop moves, living as second generation Asian American, photography and a myriad of other curiosities that come up through her connectedness. She loves learning about these things in a way that is very digital and connected. She pursues her curiosities and she is very good at it.
What gets in the way of her learning on a daily basis, however, is her schoolwork. She must take certain subjects – subjects that tick off boxes and, in the process, put her in a box and leave her bored and less than impressed with school – kind of like this cat….which I think is just a great depiction of “less-than-impressed” and “I’m bored.”
I believe my granddaughter’s boredom with much of her schoolwork stems from the many subjects she takes that do not line up with her curiosities. She’s interested in learning Korean, but can’t. It doesn’t tick off the right box – another language does that was chosen for her and she must complete the requisite number of years in. Literary analysis must be done on certain books chosen for her. “Physical Education” consists of having to read an inordinately thick and boring book on human nutrition. Something she must do although she is a tremendous dancer – but dancing, although very athletic, doesn’t tick off the PE requirement. (And just a head scratcher here, reading a big, thick boring book and taking multiple-choice quizzes on it does?)
Okay enough of that. On to what we have been studying for this week – there really is a connection. And the connection is curiosity. As we listened to Dr. Ken’s TED talk Wednesday night, it struck me that curiosity drove my granddaughter’s learning outside of school – a revelation I should have put together much sooner. She is very curious and satisfies that curiosity through her intimate connection with information on the web, you-tube, social media and her connections.
Now to my wish as her grandmother – I wish her schooling tapped into her curiosities. Why not learn Korean? Sure it’s a relatively obscure language but a language that is deemed “critical” by the US State Department. Why not world history instead of American History? Even East Asian history? How about cultural studies? How about literary analysis of contemporary lyrics? And how about incorporating dance into algebra?
And, in desiring something different for my granddaughter, where does this leave me as an educator tasked with teaching students only one to two years older than my granddaughter? Just as I have little control of the boxes that must be ticked off for my granddaughter, I have no control over the boxes that must be ticked off for the students I teach early world history. Some may be curious – others may need to just tick of a particular box. So, in this environment how can I bring learning into my classroom? How can I incorporate the ideas that students are curious about? How can I know what they are curious about? Also, how can I balance graduate school, department expectations for my performance, the desire to step out and try things outside of my comfort zone? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
In bringing this post to a close, there is actually an idea in the Langer reading that I found intriguing and “doable” I guess you might say. Something I could incorporate in my classroom – if I indeed decided to be mindful. This idea is the idea of the “value of doubt.” Langer wrote in connection with the value of doubt, “The key to this new way of teaching is based on an appreciation of both the conditional, or context-dependent, nature of the world and the value of uncertainty.” This “value of doubt” does not particularly need any new technology. I think, and I may be wrong here, that it takes a mindset on my part as a teacher. It involves introducing doubt, asking questions, challenging narratives, asking for students to analyze and where possible, to invite my students to work on the ideas/events/time periods they find most intriguing – giving up certainty for uncertainty.
In my granddaughter’s world of school, certainty abounds. Boxes are ticked off and those in charge feel safe in giving her a diploma that says “You Now Are Educated With a High School Education.” Colleges feel “safe” in admitting her and the world of education remains aligned to some paradigm created by the administrators and my heart as her grandmother is haunted by what might have been.
PS. My granddaughter just read this post and said, “I approve of this post!”