Sunday, June 30, 2013

After Exeter

Now that the conference at Exeter has come to an end, a few reflections on the week:

(1) The week-long courses were great, not only in terms of content but in also in terms of modeling the Harkness philosophy.  From a content standpoint, it was nice to be doing math again rather than teaching it.  From a pedagogy standpoint, it was great to see some of the nuances in action, nuances which can be difficult to detect when you're in the heat of the classroom.  And putting both the content and the pedagogy together, it was fun but aggravating to be the one who is frustrated rather than being the one providing the frustration for others.

(2) The camaraderie among the conference participants was equally great.  There was a seriousness of purpose that led to an almost instant bond with the people with whom I had the pleasure of working.

(3) No, the Exeter materials are not appropriate for every class.  The materials were written for the caliber of kid that attends Exeter, and as such they are not right for every classroom in the country.  Likewise, a private school has more independence when it comes to curriculum, and because of that the materials do not necessarily translate to every classroom in the country.  That being said, I am now more convinced than ever that the Harkness method is appropriate for the vast majority of the classrooms in the country.  The only thing standing in the way is the commitment by the teachers to write the worksheets appropriate for their classroom (both in terms of the level of the kids and the curriculum) and the support of the administrators.

(4) New England is delightful.  From the people of the town of Exeter that I met walking around town to the people in Boston who asked if we needed help maneuvering the subway and train, as well as recommending a restaurant during our two-hour layover (including an approximately 25-year-old blind kidding), the experience with the people was great.

(5) Finally, I need to increase the awareness of Harkness to the rest of my district and to the districts around me.  The method was never mentioned in any of my undergraduate education nor in any of the professional development since then.  And yet, it's the method of choice at one of (if not the) best high schools in the country.  More people need to know about it, and those of us who spent the past week at Exeter are just the ones to do it.

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