Monday, August 12, 2013

Three Days of Inspiration - Life and School

The last three days have been both exhausting and inspirational.  I will be reflecting on my three days in the next few blog posts.  Here are my thoughts on life and school.


On Day 1, I went to Apple Tree Auction Center with my husband.  It was just a day meant for fun - a way to celebrate my new-found freedom after retiring from the principalship. This day was my birthday, and I decided that I wanted to go to the local Apple Tree Auction Center  for the day.  I love the feeling of finding little treasures and the thrill of bidding against others to get them.  My husband and I furnished our first apartment by going to auctions, and so we both have enjoyed it over the years.

Apple Tree Auction Center

On this day, we intended to stay at the auction for just a few hours and ended up staying the whole day. We bought some large furniture items for my son, who is always filling his apartment with an interesting and eclectic collection of treasures.

I bought a wicker basket for my yarn and knitting projects and a little tapestry stool for a foot rest at my writing desk.  

We even purchased two cardboard boxes of  rocks (yes, rocks!) for my grandchildren.  At ages 5 and 3, they are so curious and love collecting rocks around the town and on vacation.  The rocks we purchased are fascinating.  Whole and partial quarts are embedded in the large stones.  We know the kids will spend hours as apprentice geologists deep in curious exploration.

I even fancied purchasing an odd but interesting piece of furniture that would inspire my writing but I feared that the item was so "unique" (and I say that kindly) that I would not have a place for it in my home.  It would have been a great place to think, imagine and write - a cue for my writing mind to get to work.

When the auction was finished, we set out to find a U-Haul truck so we could remove our purchased items before the auction house closed for the day.  We picked up the truck, and 100 miles later the furniture was delivered to my son's apartment and the rental truck returned.  Another 40 miles later, we were home and exhausted.  I love the way I was able to choose what I did that day and the small treasures that I added to my home.  It was also a great day to spend with my husband pursuing one of our shared interests.

Since retiring, I have discovered a new flexibility in my life that I  really enjoy.  I can get up and do whatever I want whenever I want.  If I feel like working hard to accomplish something, I do it.  If I want to rest and relax, I can do that, too. It's a nice feeling.  My life is filled with less "have-to" tasks and more time for "want-to" choices.  I am very fortunate.

But what about school?

I am wondering about the parallels between this day and a child's (and teacher's) day at school.  How can we make school and life like this for our children and teachers?  Does is require stepping away from rigid schedules and prescribed curriculum?  Would more choice and a student-centered environment encourage exploration, choice, curiosity and new learning?

I was so excited about the sense of adventure the auction offered me.  I had no plans accept to be there and soak in the experience.  I spent the day examining the items in the auction like an explorer anxious for new discoveries.  I used my phone to search online for the price of a beautiful wooden clock I found.  I determined what I was willing to pay for each item, and I anticipated what others would be willing to invest.  I mentally kept track of how much I was spending for the day.  I was disappointed when I missed a bid for a box of beautiful glass paperweights (and came home to do some research on them so I would be equipped to bid if I came across them again).  I conquered my fears of bidding wrongly based on the fast and furious words of the auctioneer.  I quietly celebrated when I won the bid for the items I really wanted.

So how can we help make school life more like real life? (No, it doesn't require a field trip to the auction center.)  Can we be the designers of a new life at school where children are curious and invested in learning?  Can students and teachers be makers of school adventures that inspire us to explore, research and learn?  Can we help students understand that math has a place in the world?  Can we encourage our students to navigate to knew learning as I did with the glass paperweights?  Can we help children conquer the fear of making mistakes and help them realize that mistakes are all part of learning?

I think we can.  What are your thoughts?