Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chain Reaction...

  One of my all-time favorite memories was working with a twice-exceptional gifted kid in early elementary school.  That year, I was teaching in the "gymatorium", and had a lot of fun because I had both a stage (complete with curtain) and the equivalent of a half of a regulation basketball court at my disposal.  On one afternoon, we were examining the connections of connections.   

We spent a significant amount of time establishing the soldier-like rows of dominoes with great military precision.  This is a difficult task for the most patient adult; more so for excited primary students with budding fine motor skills.  Once the last domino was in place, the instructions were clear:  "Listen very carefully to the SOUNDS you hear."  You see, each group of students had assembled rows that had very close-together dominoes, and other rows that were so far apart that they just barely touched as they fell.

"Listen."

One by one, the groups discharged their rows.  click,click,click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click, click,click,  
On and on.  And then...


click..click...click....click..click...click....click..click...click....click..click...click....click..click...click....click.
 click..click...click....click..click...click....click..click...click....click..click...click....click..click...click....click. 

"What did you hear?  What did you notice?  What was the difference between the sounds?"

"The sound was higher when they were closer together," said an excited voice at the far side of the gym.

"What does that mean?"  Others responded.  Yes, the dominoes that were farther apart had a deeper, lower sound as they fell.

"IT'S JUST LIKE MY RECORDER!!!!!!!!"  screamed the fastest brain in the room, who, it turned out, was also capable of sprinting across a gym with the speed and excitement of a cheetah.  

I remember the intensity and connection of that hug, and the jumping up and down excitement of that 3rd grader, as if it were yesterday.

 

Te@chthought Connected Educators Prompt for Thursdays in October:

Week 2: How/when does a connection become authentic? 

Indeed, the pitch of falling dominoes has a direct relationship to the distance they fall, just as the pitch of the ever-popular first instrument in elementary school, the dreaded celebrated recorder, does as the air passes from the lips to the tip.  The further the distance, the deeper the sound.    In my mind, that day, more than a dozen years ago, is the perfect illustration of an authentic connection.   Certainly, if I were to be looking at the success of the intent of the lesson plan, I scored in the land of distinguished.  I had taught a lesson, in which the students were excited and engaged, they made all the observations I had hoped for, AND they transferred that learning to something else, proving their higher-level synthesis and evaluation skills.

Do I remember the day for that accomplishment?  Honestly, yes, but only as a secondary memory.

The bigger memory for me -- the more authentic connection for me -- was the HUMAN connection that was made that day.  You see, that little guy with the herculean strength bouncing his teacher up and down in the gymatorium, was both gifted and autistic, having been diagnosed with asperger's syndrome.    He rarely made eye contact, showed little in the way of emotion or excitement, (unless it was in the form of a meltdown), and avoided human contact at all costs.    In that moment, he was engaged, he was motivated, he was excited, and he was genuinely making connections.

The Te@chthought prompt today is probably not asking about a specific example.  Most people in this challenge, I suspect, will talk about the value of connections, and the necessary time to establish meaningful relationships.  All of that has tremendous value, and should be part of the bigger discussion.  

On Tuesday I discovered this TED Talk entitled Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work, which makes the case that society has changed so much that workplaces no longer allow for uninterrupted time for people to make meaningful (authentic?) connections with each other, with their work, or to fully develop their thoughts.  

The same thing is happening in our schools.  Somebody somewhere decided that kids have the attention span of roughly one minute per year of life.  Ten year olds can focus, intently, for ten minutes, and then need some variety to keep them interested, for example.  (Presumably, that logic would indicate that I could stay focused for 53 minutes, but I digress.... and object...)  One of my teacher friends who teaches fourth grade has an afternoon schedule where her class members change EVERY 30 minutes.  Five classes in 2 1/2 hours.  How can anyone shift their thinking that much?  (Kids or teachers?)

Meaningful connections, authentic connections, between people take time to establish trust, respect, and instill value.  The same can be said for learning.  Solid blocks of time to establish authentic understanding of content, and time to connect with classmates and teachers to develop relationships, both human and with curriculum.

It took time to set up those dominoes.  It took patience to wait for those directions.  It took trust in classmates to discharge and listen.  It took human connections for authenticity.


It took one giant hug to prove this to me.  And if I close my eyes, I can still feel my feet lifting off the ground, all these years later.