Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lessons from Feeny: Education Beyond Books

On Friday, the USA lost to Canada.

I was not happy about the outcome.

However, I decided to let my seniors watch the game. I know, we have missed a lot of days for snow and I know, we have a lot to cover since they are seniors and they will be graduating soon.

There were 3 minutes left in the game when the period after me started. Two of my seniors asked me if they could stay and get a pass. I agreed because, well, I wanted to watch in hopes that the US would come back and at least tie it (I did tell them that if it was tied I wasn't going to let them stay for that).

Yesterday, the teacher to one of the seniors that stayed came up to talk to me and informed me that he had a quiz during last period and they were not happy that I allowed them to be late because they missed critical time to take the quiz.

I asked if they tried to use it as an excuse for more time and the answer was no. So I, like an idiot, said "then what is the problem?"

The answer was something along the lines of that we can't allow students to get away with this, education is super important, that they need to learn responsibility, etc.

I almost said "But next year, in college, he would have chosen the same thing."

I kept my mouth closed because that would just have sparked more debate that was useless.

Despite the snow, despite the amount of work I have to cover for my seniors before they are done at the end of May, I stand by my decision.

I am a huge hockey fan. My seniors and I routinely have debates about which NHL player is better. We have honestly have had heated debates where I made them actually use facts and debate format for the whole Crosby/Ovi debate. I have also done this for basketball with Jordan/Lebron. I'm not short of making sports part of the learning process.

However, I am aware there was no educational value to this game. But it was a huge game for anyone who likes hockey and the Olympics.

It was as I was trying to figure out the best way to phrase this that I remembered a Boy Meets World episode in the first season where Corey doesn't do well on his test because his dad woke him up to watch a no hitter that was being aired on the west coast. Feeny originally gets angry like this other teacher did because education is important.

As the episode goes on, he realizes that, when he was a child, he wasn't allowed to listen to FDR's speech that declared the war over because he had a test the next day. He doesn't remember what was supposed to be on the test but he does remember not hearing that speech because it was such a special event. It is when this happens that he tells Corey

"You see Mr. Matthews, education is not about obscure facts and little test scores. Education is about the overall affects of years of slow absorption. Concepts, philosophies, approaches to problem solving. The whole process is so grand and all-encompassing that it really can't be threatened by the occasional late-night no-hitter."

Yeah, education is important. But it isn't all about the books. It is everything. Slow absorption. As long as I don't interrupt class for every little thing, what damage have I really done? The student took responsibility of missing the first few minutes of class and didn't ask for more time. They knew they had made a choice and they knew the consequences of doing so. As a teacher, I try over and over again to get my students to take responsibility for their actions and choices and this student did. Even though it may not have been from the books, this student did learn something and I'm proud of them for that. You don't have to prove you learned something by taking a quiz.

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