I Learned…Week 1
This week I started off new and fresh, but with a sense of anxiety. I sat in class waiting for the lecture to begin and had a brief and casual conversation with Dr. Sheuerman. In this conversation he mentioned that he once worked for a school that was being torn down and rebuilt anew. He mentioned that he saved some of the original bricks, added a memorial plaque of the school and auctioned them off for what I imagine was some educational fundraising event. Dr. Sheuerman mentioned that he was able to keep one and that he still uses it today as a paperweight in his home. Now, while this story may not resonate with everyone, it struck a chord for me; especially throughout my reading of “The Aims of Education” by Alfred North Whitehead (1916). I kept thinking that bricks are what foundations are built from; what we build walls and supports out of. Bricks are formed and created, they are solid and stable. Initially, they are the skeleton for any structure of substance. They fit together and are used in conjunction with one another; bricks are used over and over and throughout time they become the bonds that hold everything together. This is what I think that Whitehead was trying to say about education.
“Let the main ideas that which are introduced into a child’s education be few and important, and let them be thrown into every combination possible” Whitehead (1916). I think that Whitehead is saying that we must teach students solid, concrete concepts and have them use and understand and apply these concepts as often as possible to their daily routine, life and existence. These “few and important” concepts then become the bricks in the foundation for future learning and educational experiences. It is our job as teachers to help our students build a foundation out of these bricks and support them as they walk over, on, around and possibly through this foundation, until it is what they apply all future knowledge to. Then and only then will we be able to add windows to this structure, new ideas and thoughts to look at through this foundation of well-built knowledge.
In order to do this I think we, as teachers, must possess a passion for constant transformation and honest expectations for ourselves and our students.
…the problem of keeping knowledge alive, of preventing it from becoming inert, which is the central problem of all education. The best procedure will depend on several factors, none of which can be neglected, namely, the genius of the teacher, the intellectual type of the pupils, their prospects in life, the opportunities offered by the immediate surrounding of the school, and allied factors of this sort. Whitehead (1916)
We need to use the bricks of knowledge, that we help to foster, and design, as Dr. Sheuerman says, “a compelling curriculum” to support the growth of a structure from this strong foundation. We as teachers need to find a way to generate interest, to intrigue individuals and to force the hunger for knowledge to the surface for every student. This is no small task.
Lastly, “The best education is to be found in gaining the utmost information from the simplest apparatus. The provision of elaborate instruments is greatly to be deprecated.” Whitehead (1916) I learned it is imperative to keep the basic concepts active. Build upon those concepts. Uses those few and important concepts every day and once those concepts are innately known, build upon them with new and important ideas. It is not possible to build a house of windows alone. A roof cannot keep you dry if it is not supported above you. It is only when students have the brick-layered foundation of support will they ever be able to continually add and successfully build on to their base conceptual knowledge. The brick that Dr. Sheuerman has in his home is a great reminder that it is a long and arduous process, but one that is life altering for the teacher and the student who choose to build from the ground up.