My daughter is spending the year studying abroad in London. She is an ideal learner. She loves to read, to discourse, and to learn. It has been a great experience for me to have her experiencing a different kind of program as it pushes my own pedagogy.
Her program is one year long. She has had two 12 week terms, the last one ending in early March. Then she had a week off and now is in her study month: no classes for a full month before students take one final exam for their year long class. She was sure that all of the local students would go home and that the exchange students would travel. She was shocked to find that the library has been packed to the gills for weeks now. Students actually use this time to really study everything they have learned in the last 7 months.
When she called this past weekend, she was on fire with how much she was enjoying going over her notes from last fall. She was proud of what she still remembered and understood but what really struck her was how she could enhance all of that with what she had learned since. She was able to make connections between classes that she never would have had she been using the plug and chug method often seen in education. Instead of cramming and memorizing and then performing on a test before moving on to the next set of data to cram and memorize and spit out, she is settling in and absorbing a year’s worth of learning and all its rich interconnectedness.
So, of course, I wonder how I can translate that to my own classroom. I like the math program we are using now as it spirals as any good math program should, practicing skills that were learned earlier in the year. But what about science? And social studies? We tend to compartmentalize those into units that we teach and then assess and then seldom return to. I shared this thought with my team and brainstormed about what we could to connect the dots instead of leaving the dots in isolation.
Every year for the past few years we have talked of choosing a word or theme to follow throughout the school year. And now we see the importance of that. While we can’t circle back to revisit every topic in depth, we can keep reconnecting to it as we layer on new units as we see how everything is interrelated. We decided to stop toying with it and choose our theme for next year.
We have thought of “tolerance”, and ‘grit’, or maybe ‘patience’. Any other suggestions?