Going the Distance: Because Thats it What it Takes for 21st Century Learners.
“How far should we go, as educators, to support non-formal and informal learning? How do we deal with the fact that we are part of a formal system when we know that a heck of a lot of learning (many say, most) happens outside of our formal learning systems? Where do we fit into this? Or in summary, the key question to consider is “what is our role in non-formal learning? (#edt400)”
Learning takes place in and out of the classroom. Sometimes, though I bet it will be highly debated by some, I believe that is learned outside the classroom is much more important. But in order for this kind of learning to take place, I believe that students need a foundation, a strong center, to branch learning off of. Students need to build upon ideas given to them in the classroom
Let’s say, since I am teaching English, that students are asked to read one of those “classics” that teach morals and important ideas. The students are not going to care if they cannot relate it to themselves in some way. This is most important when dealing with the age group of adolescents who are most concerned with discovering who they are, or this idea of self-discovery. What if the lesson that they learned in the classroom was designed to make them think outside of the classroom. What if there was a single idea, a foundation, that students could build off of and take outside the classroom?
So what is our role in non formal learning? School serves the purpose currently of three things. The first is a place of learning. The second, as some see it unfortunately, a babysitter for their kids. The final one is a environment for learning social skills. There are some social stills and models of morals that students cannot learn from any text book, even though it may be implied. As teachers, we never force ideas or concepts on our students, but we can surly open the door for ideas and places for exploration. Everything that students can learn that is not from a text book or lecture is non formal learning, and it may be the most powerful learning there is.
How many of you were on Student Council? It was not until after I graduated that I realized what student council did for me. (I am a sophomore in high school in this picture with my best friend Emily) It was the non formal learning about leadership skills such as communication, teamwork, team building, and time management that I gained the most from. It taught me skills that a book never could. There was always themes, “Got Integrity,” “Dare to Soar,” etc… and as many tee shirts and photos with my best friends that I have from these conferences, it is the skills from them that I apply to my everyday life I consider the most valuable “non formal” learning I got from high school.
So how does that impact me today? These are three kids that I have mentored since I was a senior in high school. And even after graduation, we have remained close. (Aka they call me mom and constantly call me) All three are on Student Council, all three have plans on making a difference in the community after high school, and all three have taught me so much about what it means to impact the lives of others. When I got a letter from one of them, it had a foot print in it. At a conference, he was given three footprints to give out to people that had “left a footprint on his life.” I was one of them.
That is what teaching is about to me. Making that impact not only in the classroom with material that my students need to know, but with life lessons they can take outside of the classroom. I carry that foot print with me everywhere that I go. This is my advisor (Linda too! which made me Lil’ Lindy) who taught me that “non-formal” learning, that information that no book could. I want to be in education, but I intend to do it right.