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Meeting on the road

(5 min read) I’ve been reading a book. –reading for pleasure, for my own growth, not for research on an upcoming project, but to stretch my mind. I love that. And I’m a bit behind. The founder of this book club, Bryan Alexander, did his post on Chapter 3 nearly a month ago! I really do read so slowly. Let me give you an example – my daughter has started reading funny tweets to me because she reads fast and gets impatient when it takes me longer to read it than it takes her to say it. The point is, the rest of the book club kind-of finished the book, but it’s a little appropriate that my post on Chapter 3 from We make the road by walking by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire comes now.

Myles says: …can’t teach people, they have to learn. Meet them where they are & go together. …So while I insist on starting where people are, that’s the only place they could start. …I can start somewhere else. I can start where I am, but they’ve got to start where they are. (p99-100)

So here I am. This is also the core of everything. Rather like a Dr. Suess illustration, we are all on our own path, somewhere. Paving the way through a series of ‘nows’ as we go. We can carry the paving materials with us, plan for, and mix the mortar to set the stones, but we do in the now and it is impossible to teleport someone to where we are and somehow skip their own road-building. From my experience, when you try to do that, it just means that sometime, somewhere along the journey you have to go back and rebuild what you tried to skip. (Image source http://seuss.wikia.com/wiki/Dr._Seuss_Wiki)

Myles says: Education is abstraction. It is stories that connect. It is the catalyst that entices you to think. (p.100)

Yes, and the stories help to be relatable. If we accept that we are each on our own roads, then it would be impossible to have ONE moving sidewalk for everyone, but we still need the building blocks. Tools, facts, skills, these are separate, they alone are not education, but are both context & mortar in the synaptic creation we build.

Myles: My quest is not to go alone but to go with the people. (p.101)

I have a responsibility to provide whatever light I can on the subject and share my ideas with people. (p.105)

Oh, yes. –but not in a blinding torch in your eyes kind of light, but hopefully more like the glow of the approaching dawn. Well, that’s the ideal dream. That gives people enough light to look and see for themselves and find….

Myles recounted a student telling him: “When you’re talking, you aren’t learning.” (p.114)

And don’t teachers need to be reminded of this. How many have job titles of ‘lecturer’? Language has impact on thinking. It is our translation of thoughts, and as Bandura says, thought mediates action – and I believe that. What you think is powerful. You might not be learning while talking – just as you cannot listen to two conversations at once (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocktail_party_effect )…but you do learn in the in-between times. After, before, in conversation, in doing.

Reading on… there came something very powerful which begins to crystalise the understanding of education vs. organisation. This is often something that I think many educators feel or sense but haven’t been able to articulate, certainly not with such grace:

Myles: One of the examples I used to use got me in trouble and still gets me in trouble when I use it. I’d say if you were working with an organisation and there’s a choice between the goal of that organisation, or the particular program they’re working on, and educating people, developing people, helping them grow, helping them become able to analyse -if there’s a choice, we’d sacrifice the goal of the organisation for helping the people grow, because we think in the long run it’s a bigger contribution. (p.115)

My first reaction is (wow, yes), and the parenthesis are because, yes, it is something usually thought and not discussed, but then I did think on it and realised that this is less controversial than it sounds. – and we see it in practice all the time. Goals of big organisations and then that we are not aiming to become a machine, because we deal with people – with students, and they are people with their own futures. Then we learn about learning and realise it cannot be done to people – as in a machine, and it has to be about developing people. Sometimes people within the machine mistakenly believe that caring for the individual means you are somehow against the goals of the larger unit, but it is from within that we find strength, it cannot be imposed. That scales on any level, from the individual who either needs the strength of courage or of muscle, they both need time, experience, patience, nurturing, and diligence to build. You cannot impose true strength on anyone, and to teach individuals is a great privilege.

Freire: Education is before, is during, and is after. It’s a process, a permanent process. It has to do with the human existence and curiosity. (p.119)

Yes. Just yes. Freire goes on to explain that an organisation can solve problems, but education is a process. That is such a good thing to remember and be reminded of. There are not answers to problems. Sometimes students expect to learn ‘IT’ and then they will have ‘IT’, but there is no ‘IT’. Oh there are aspects that help you find something. It takes me back to a game I obsessed over as a child. In search of the most amazing thing (ISOMAT) certainly had primitive graphics (compared to today’s games!) with mostly line drawings, and you moved at a rate of pixels across the screen, but intellectually it was amazing. Travelling around the universe, meeting different cultures, learning about their food, their music, their art, and learning how to barter for clues to get to ‘IT’. ‘IT’ was everything. I kept all the clues written on special paper, folded and labeled by country/species in a little glass box with a leaded outline of a butterfly on it. These clues were more precious to me than jewelry. Rings and neclaces didn’t go in that box, my paper clues did. In the end I nearly solved it – I was told by the wise old Uncle Smokey that – the most amazing think was you kiddo! And then there was the quest to get the B-liner (your ship) home through the mire crab desert, but you lost your navigation system and then my floppy disk got corroded after sitting in the basement for 20+ years and I never finished the game. That has been a lesson to me as well. (you can download the dos version of the game here: http://www.myabandonware.com/game/in-search-of-the-most-amazing-thing-2c )

You never finish the game. There are no finite answers. The most amazing thing is you – me? You? Yes. And we are always changing. Nobody can put us into a bottle, and label us, and define us, and neatly compile us into a catalogue. Even this book, gives a glimpse into those conversations between Horton and Freire, but it isn’t them. It is just a glint, a hint of a slice, and how magical to catch that dazzling sunbeam, but it would be foolish to then walk away announcing ‘Ah, I know now.’ There is so much more…

…and as Myles says: Now there’s a big difference in giving information and telling people how to use it. (p.129)

I’m going to leave it there, even though there is more to say, because it’s Boxing Day, and the last day of my holiday in Mexico, and I need to do some more imperfect, inelegant (supremely fun) handstands on the beach and look for turtle tracks in the sand.

 

One Comment Post a comment
  1. That emphasis on organization is so, so true. I hear it from educators and policymakers at all levels.

    Going against it is very, very risky.

    January 5, 2017

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