Monday, June 24, 2013

Time Travel

Day two at Exeter, the first day of "real" classes and Harkness discussions, was wonderful and enlightening on many levels.  I signed up for two content-related classes, knowing that this would mean having homework each night since the classes were going to be taught via Harkness.  The homework has been fun, the discussions today were good, and much as I witnessed in my classroom on the few days when there were only 12-14 students present, the depth and for the most part the focus of the conversations were solid.  There was also a panel discussion about how to run things in a classroom of 25+ students, which was not so much a "how-to" manual as a sharing of ideas...all good stuff.

However, as I was sitting in the math class today as a student, I wondered what things would have been like had this been the way I was taught in high school.  Would I have the same appreciation for it then as I do now?  Would I have actually enjoyed some of the math courses (I loved some but loathed others)?  For that matter, what would it have been like if my college courses were run this way?  Would I have been enthusiastically in favor of such a method, or would I have simply been trying to get through the material regardless of how well I understood it?  It's tough to tell from this vantage point, of course, but one thing is for certain: I need to make sure I instill in my students an appreciation for Harkness and for the Socratic Seminars they experience in their English classes and for the POGILs they experience in their science classes.  Looking back, I wish this were the way I had been taught.  I wish I had been taught not to fear mistakes but to acknowledge them and embrace the lessons learned from them.  I hope that my kids last year got at least a small sense of this, and I intend to make sure that the kids in the years to come do.  And I need to have this attitude myself moving forward.  There were a lot of things that we did right last year...that really worked well and that are worth continuing.  But being here I'm gaining some of the insights into Harkness that are difficult to see from the outside, especially from hundreds of miles away.  I need to actively look for other potentially better ways of doing things, discuss these ways with other people, and learn from the experience.  It is becoming clear to me that, viewed properly, life is a Harkness table, and it's high time we told the kids (and ourselves) to pull up a chair.

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