An Age of Marvels

irelandIf there’s any doubt that we are living in an age of marvels just read these accounts of what happened when school was closed last Friday:  Snow Day  and Teaching Is Never Boring and Snow Day .

With the forecasters predicting apocalyptic snowfalls, school was closed but the learning did not stop.

Online tools available to teachers are astonishing and powerful and they were fully deployed to engage and connect students last Friday.  And these are just the examples I know about because the teachers blogged them.

There were many others.

This was not just distance busy work but active learning. Schedules for middle and high school even allowed for time for invaluable sleeping-in as well as shoveling and play.

Each day seems to bring new stuff with the potential to astonish us and allow new possibilities for connecting, collaborating and creating.

It must have felt a bit like that in the years 1880-1914 before all the hope and optimism came crashing to a calamitous halt with the guns of August.

Last week I was a guest teacher in two classrooms.  It’s a new semester and Bernadette is teaching a senior history elective focused on the post-war world of the 1920’s and beyond. Knowing my interest in the Great War she invited me to join the class. This of course meant considerable time delving into resources and trying to put together an introduction to the era that might have some value.

Rather like our own times, that pre-war world was an age of miracles, discovery and mechanical marvels: the automobile, flight, electricity, sound recording, the discovery of radium, the theory of relativity, psychoanalysis, the interpretation of dreams and all the ground-breaking modernist writers, artists and musicians who were mediating this world of change in their art.

The second class was Shirley’s sixth grade.  They have been skyping with a school in Northern Ireland that has been studying the First World War. They had used TodaysMeet to discuss Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce Et Decorum Est

I could not ask for better sets of learners. Very impressive.

Now, it’s one thing you know for sure when you are with a class on a regular basis: Teaching is like being a conductor or lead violin in an orchestra. It is not about the effective off-loading of knowledge.  It is about bringing out the contributions of everyone. It’s about relationships and knowing each student as an individual learner and not about being a delivery system.

Packages get delivered, learning does not. And forgetting that is the trap of those who don’t teach every day.

So, did I fall into the trap? Yes, probably. But no great harm was done and the old truism also came into play to my advantage if no-one else’s: You never know something so well as when you try and teach it to others.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Painting: Lyubov Popova, 1912-13, Air Man Space

1 Comment

  1. This is awesome!
    I am amazed on how you got into school that day! It’s really awesome how teachers can present form the comfort of their own homes. I also forgot to say thank you for teaching us about WWI

    Best Wishes,


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