Sunday, June 28, 2015

Learning By Doing


I have spent the last two weeks dwelling in lofty ideas. I attended a TEDx event, read educational books and blogs, had lively conversations about ideas with teacher friends and debriefed with my own children about their academic year. It was great! Relaxing, engaging and really fun.

Tomorrow, I have to go to work. Not the "lofty idea" type of work, either. The "all day, it is really hot, helping kids be successful and supporting other teachers" type of work that is Summer Spark. This is my second year running Summer Spark. I learned a great deal and had a wonderful time last summer. Reflecting on last summer's successes and challenges has been a fun endeavor which was heavily peppered with lofty ideas.

Lofty ideas typically inspire change, and so some of the things we did last summer needed to be altered or removed and replaced with something new. This, of course, meant work - evaluating last year, synthesizing new ideas, adapting them to meet our needs. It was time consuming, but fun - the kind of thinking that is rewarding and challenging at the same time.  The kind of thinking that starts with "what if."

Thinking and implementing are different, however. Some of the new ideas were easy to adopt. Others, too expensive. Tackling the road blocks was frustrating at times, but still a "lofty idea" kind of project.

Tomorrow, however, those lofty ideas have to make room for real, live people. For kids who will show up excited and ready or glum and tired - mostly likely a little of each. For parents who might have anxiety about leaving their kids with us all day and need a little extra support and time. For teachers who have to get used to new students and new surroundings. For bus drivers who might show up early or late.

Throughout the drama and excitement that tomorrow (not to mention the next five weeks) will offer, I will hold on to my lofty ideas. The difference is, I will be learning by doing. The interactions with students, parents and teachers, the phone calls and emails, the field trips, the snack buying, the recess monitoring and all the other active tasks I will perform will be different from the last two weeks of thinking leisurely. But if I can hold on to my lofty ideas and allow them to inform my actions, I have the opportunity to learn even more. By doing, I will discover what works, what doesn't, who needs what, how I can best support them and what I can do to make the summer fun, safe, engaging and purposeful for others. Plus, with some luck and intentional planning, I can continue to engage in lofty ideas with teachers, bus drivers, parents and mostly with students.

I think it is going to be a great summer. After all, the best way to learn anything is by doing.

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