Monday, December 1, 2014

Hunting Season

One week from today, I'll be posting for the 100th straight day.  So far, it's been pretty enlightening as I've tried to put into words what existed, heretofore, only in my head.  

Growing up outside of Philadelphia, school holidays were tied pretty much to the usual holiday calendar, with the addition of the high holy Jewish holidays to balance out the school year.  So when I moved to Lancaster County, I was surprised that Passover and Yom Kippur were not listed.

Yet the Monday after Thanksgiving was.  

Please understand that while the rest of the world is shopping from their desks at work on what is now known as CyberMonday, most of Lancaster County's teachers are not in the classroom.  If you are shaking your head in astonishment and wonder, I can only clarify with five words:

First Day of Hunting Season.

Yes, the reason for all that camouflage in my classroom last week is finally upon us.  For me, that meant a chance to spend the day with my BFF, Molly, on our annual Christmas shopping excursion.  And while we pretend it's because we need to get a serious jump on the shopping, it's really about spending a day starting a series of important statements that begin with "Did I tell you...." and hardly finishing any of the stories we start because we chase other rabbits down other holes, never really returning to the original discussion.

  It's December 1st, and there is no prompt from Te@chthought.  

GASP!  I must think on my own?

As I drove home after dropping Molly off at her car, where she had parked at the beginning of our day, it occurred to me that my day communicating with Molly is much like the day that many students have in the classroom.  Despite the best-written lesson plans, and the most focused instructors, there will always be distractions in place for students.  Whether it be snowflakes flying outside the window (always a suitable "will we get out early?" distraction),  grumbling stomachs counting down until lunch, or some amusing display by a classmate, it's easy to not complete a single thought during a school day.

And the thought that thinking  in society or at home is any less distracting, is clearly not worthy of much meditation.   So what are we to do?

Somewhere, somehow, we must reimagine education -- and maybe even hold society responsible for some of the skills we need from our students.  For generations, students learned as apprentices to mentors, and became craftspeople by learning with purpose.  John Abbott, Director of the 21st Century Learning Initiative, has some interesting suggestions. 

So what do you think?  Does Luther's Manifesto that started the Reformation have credence in education today?  It's difficult to argue with the "titles" of the 99 Theses Abbott suggests, but I wonder whether anyone in society is focused enough to study and accept all 99 before jumping in and claiming this to be the new solution to the current "crisis" in education.

Because somewhere halfway through one of those Theses, someone will see a squirrel running into a rabbit hole, and the focus is gone, just like my conversations with Molly today.