August 31, 2010

I am apparently supposed to, as is possible to “do” with the very vehicle (my mind)  by which I have been asked to do it,…to think.

Not to simply record isolated, random “thoughts”, although those may find their way into my thinking, but REFLECTIVE moments of meta-cognition by myself. I’m being asked to analyze and reflect upon my learning this semester. This is a thrilling and terrifying prospect for me.

As I initially reflect upon my own educational journey, I would have to classify the beginning thirteen or fourteen years as a literal translation of what my teachers had spent their hard-earned time “teaching” me. They presented me with opportunity to absorb what they knew. It was my responsibility to somehow manage to show to them that I could “re-create” or “regurgitate” whatever the topic had been, and to do so exactly as it had been relayed to me. They gave a grade to show what they thought of the regurgitation. Lovely words, like “excellent” or ‘very satisfactory” were the standards by which my earliest years found themselves measured. Letter grades and percentages calibrated my progress as I grew older and taller. I was not at anytime during these formative years asked to actually “think”, in fact, I “think” I was only asked “to do.”

While the eventual crisis didn’t occur until sometime midway during my pursuit of an undergraduate degree, it was in high school that I first realized that my parents and teachers did not know everything! I read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (of Ignorance) as a junior in high school, independent of any class I was taking then. Somewhat of an accident, I simply checked the book out of my rural high school’s library one day. Stumbling upon the rarely used tomes of the philosophers during my study hall stroll which had been to avoid just sitting and doing nothing for that class period. This was one of the first acts of doing which would lead me towards the act of being that I can remember. I had to read and reread that book, The Republic, so many times! My other “studies” suffered, my friends did not understand that I would read a book that I did not “have” to read for a class; although they would have understood had I chosen a popular paperback of the day, the newest Stephen King, or Agatha Christie, or a contemporary sage like “up the Down Staircase… So for several months that year, I just kept renewing Plato. I chose to read something that I could actually think a thought about. With no one to talk to about it, though, I floundered. But, thankfully, “making progress”  in my “thinking ability” was not a compulsory requirement  for graduation. I received my diploma and went off to Findlay College to learn “more stuff.” My maternal grandfathers’ two sisters had graduated as teachers forty or fifty years before, and that was the justification on my parent’s part for why I should go there as well. I suppose it was as good a reason as any might have been at that time.

Ironically, I met real GREEK students (ethnically, immigrant students, not “Greek” as in the frats and sororities on campus). Greek students from across the Atlantic, from the exotic locales of Santorini and Athens, were students enrolled at Findlay College, Findlay, Ohio, smack dab in the middle of the “snow-belt” of Ohio! Since I had to take nearly any/all work-study employment that I could find to help pay my tuition. one such job was the opportunity to be a language tutor in the “Intensive Language Lab” on campus. I would work with a few fellow classmates on campus in Conversational English. I was assigned to a group of three Greek students, all male, all older than me, and all in dire need to learn English, and to learn it quickly. One particular student, Demetrius, was nearly 30, had “fought in the war” (I didn’t know which/what war, and my lack of respect had irritated him. I was simply puzzled as I heard of a war about which I knew nothing. Apparently any history or current event which did not directly pertain to the United States or our interests had not been covered by my teachers, or my local television station. Betrayed by my teachers, I bore a faulty education). I remember feeling embarrassed when he said something in Greek to the others, then turned and said, “against the Turkey!” to me.

This is the first time I remember feeling embarrassed and foolish because I did not “know” something. I had spent over a decade of my life demonstrating to my parents, clergy and teachers that I knew an answer. Could it be possible that I had received a faulty education? Did my teachers leave things out on purpose? by design? for fun? or spite? My entire peer group seemed to have a limited understanding of world/global matters. It was clear to me that I might need to take my education into my own hands. The idea percolated, and I returned the next year to Findlay, but then, I did take action. When my father came to pick me up for Christmas break of my sophomore year, I had packed my bags, boxed up my belongings, and was ready to quickly empty out my dorm room into his car. He was surprised, as had been the Dean of Education a few days earlier with my decision. I was determined to start to figure out all the stuff that I hadn’t been taught, that authority had “kept” from me. I was 19.

These past memories flooded back after class on August 31st. They came in a sudden memory blast as I started to think that I was going to actually reflect, ruminate, reconsider and perhaps redress “the thoughts” and misconceptions I had experienced as a student/consumer of education over the years. While I “think”? my goal is to apply my “thinking” about Educational Leadership and ITS implications for me, to me, upon me…. I am cautious. I do not want to simply regurgitate Dr. B’s lectures. Actually it seems that he doesn’t ‘lecture” in the traditional sense. There were only eight of us in the room tonight to hear him..we shall see…I have much to read of Vaclav Havel’s “Art of the Impossible”…stay tuned.

Lastly, after this class, I drove home and realized that  I felt “mushy” in the brain! I was actually sort of blank, and was not able to formulate much of a thought at all. So to end this journal entry, let me state for the record, that in a little more than a two-hour class, I went from thinking I at least commanded my own thoughts to remembering moments that I hadn’t thought about in over thirty years. My internal thoughts could be directed by an external source? Were they genuine, or a product of the external device? Apparently, I am a human “being”, not a human “doing.” (that one made me laugh, Dr. B! LOL)

Through those memories I revisited the feelings I had when:

I knew what it was like to “learn”….to copy, to emulate, to practice, to spit back “word for word”, to memorize, to re-write, to follow directions, and to stay in the lines when i colored; to turn it in on time, to repeat, rinse, lather, and in essence to DO.

ALL earlier models of learning for me have incorporated DOING. Apparently, I have signed up for a journey in BEING…..

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