Pssst…Pass the Note

Source: http://goo.gl/BGEY2

When I was in a Panamanian Catholic, private school 3rd grade class run by English speaking nuns and educators, I remember the prohibition against passing notes. It was sometimes enforced with a ruler, but more often, adherence was mandated with a tough stare, and note obliteration. I remember more about notes and their destruction than I do whatever it was I was supposed to learn in that class. Of course, perhaps I learned it so well I forgot it.

On reflecting on what “stuck” from those many years in school, sure, obviously I learned something. But the context of the lesson…that sent a powerful message. I remember Ms. Hicks, who taught my fifth grade class as being supportive when I walked in with my manila folder science project because I’d forgotten to ask for help in time from Mom and Dad (never again did I do that). I remember Ms. Applin in 6th grade and how her loving-kindness just…made a difference in everything that happened.
I remember my principals, Sr. Eileen and Ms. Kane, who always portrayed tough benevolence and a sense of approval for who I was as an elementary student, as a young person whose trust by necessity was placed in their hands.
When Alec Couros, in this blog entry, asks What endures? What remains? I suppose he’s asking about learning, the skills and strategies that we agonize over, we repeatedly test again and again, that we spend countless hours haranguing teachers and administrators about in some schools and districts. But to be honest, that isn’t all that endures from the school experience.

I’ve summarized what I think Alec is asking below:

  1.  In these roles [as educators], what should we hope endures for our students? 
  2. What is the level of awareness of the depth and quality of our own connections?
  3. Say, if Twitter or Facebook were gone (or dramatically different) tomorrow, would the human connections that matter to you be easily rediscovered/re-formed elsewhere?

As a student, what is it that I really want for myself? As an educator, what is it that I really want for myself, those I serve, and the organization? Those are the questions I need to begin with. 

As a student, I realize now that I simply wanted to know the path to love and affirmation, support along the way. I wanted to do well.
In my role as an educator, what I hope endures for our students is a lack of fear, an inculcated ability to be unafraid as they stare into the mirror, to see what lies behind the beautiful smile or the frown, to accept oneself as s/he truly is and do what must be done, what is right. . .to be self-affirming. The working definition of critical thinking–not as some highfaluting concept only curriculum directors understand–comes to mind.
In light of the answers to what I want for myself, for those I serve, if Twitter and Facebook were to disappear, I would want for disintermediated human connections to continue. In schools of yesterday–before personal communication devices like mobile phones, smartphones found their way in–those human connections were mediated by those in authority. 

Technology disintermediates people in authority, disrupts the ways in which they once tried to control student-to-student connections. Although it would be hard to imagine going back to paper notes being passed from one to another, now that we know technology can be used to broaden how we connect, collaborate and communicate, create experiences with each other, would we consent to be so controlled and governed?
In reading Mosaic of Thought, I stumbled across this passage. It immediately reminded me that what we’re going through as educators has happened before…several times as we come to understand our work in different ways.

What we call teaching reading has come to mean something dramatically different than it did when many of today’s teachers learned to read. Teaching reading is less about “teaching” and more about creating encouraging learning environments where children choose to read. This reminds one that the ability to comprehend text is caught rather than taught.

Caught rather than taught. Hmm…maybe, what endures is the constant experience of benevolence as we learn what we don’t know, and the mediums that empower human beings to connect, overcoming…punching through the barriers that prevent those connections.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

2 thoughts on “Pssst…Pass the Note

  1. Alec Couros July 4, 2012 at 9:32 pm Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Miguel. This is what I was looking for – to move beyond skills acquisition and testing – and to really think about what will endure (or what should endure) for our students and ourselves. You've provided wonderful insight here, and have extended my thinking on these questions. Thank you.

  2. Miguel Guhlin July 5, 2012 at 3:50 am Reply

    @Alec, thank you for getting my brain going! Much appreciate you circling back. I wasn't sure I was in the same ballpark.;-)With appreciation,Miguel

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