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Learning at its Best

What do mean you don’t know where I live?

It’s been a while since I last posted to the Coop.  Since my last post I engaged in a global job search eventually landing a position in Qatar, working for the Qatar Foundation at the Qatar Leadership Academy.  Yesterday I arrived in Qatar after 24 hours of traveling from the small town of Cornucopia, WI. To learn about the incredible vision Qatar is advancing, check out the NOW and 60 Minute pieces aired recently. Here is my first reflective piece.

It’s funny how things circle back reappearing when you least expect it.  Though they often happen in times of life’s transitions.  In 2000, a lifetime ago, I began working for Northwest Passage High School as one of 4 teachers.  In addition to my many educational tasks, I also had the distinct pleasure of picking and dropping students off at their houses using one of our school’s minivans.  

Early during the year I was asked to drop off Billy(not his real name).  Now Billy was challenged.  He was challenged because his family was not there for him.  They lived in trailer park outside of Blaine.  He was under credit and over aged, meaning he was 3 years behind his peers. Billy was dealt a pretty weak hand. 

Having worked in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the roads in Blaine were unfamiliar to me, which is why I was doing the drop offs. Add to this situation a world where cell phones were not common, I didn’t have one at the time.

Sounds easy, get in the van with kids and they point you to their houses, right?  Wrong.  I found myself in the van with Billy after dropping off a number of students.  I looked at him, “Where to?” Response, “I thought you knew where I lived.”  How does a kid not know the way home?

Fast forward to last night.  For those of you who don’t know I just arrived in Doha, Qatar.  I spent a wonderful evening at colleague’s house as a guest for dinner.  It was getting late and they ordered me a driver to take me home to Al Khor, which is 40 minutes north of Doha.  Everything’s great, I jump in the car and we head off, except this time the driver takes a different route to Al Khor. The Eastern route I know, the Western route I haven’t a clue.  Arriving in Al Khor, he turns and asks, “Where to?”  Response, “I thought you knew where I lived?”  Ah, Billy forgive me for my thoughts at the time questioning your intellect.

Novel experiences are the life blood of learning. Placed in a new situation our senses are heighten, and if we stay focused real deep learning occurs.  How as teachers can we place our students in these kind of learning environments?  To keep the learning fresh, to keep the learner engage.  That is the challenge, that is the mission of education. 

By the way, I didn’t have a working cell phone that night either. Go figure.

About Jamie Steckart

Currently the Head of Academic Affairs for the Qatar Leadership Academy. Passionate about experiential and project based learning.


3 thoughts on “What do mean you don’t know where I live?

  1. Ah, yes … Those novel experiences – like the phrase I’ve not heard before. Don’t know how young it starts but the college students or at least most of them that I worked with had a concept of problem solving: (1) there are a small but critical number of topics that must be known to get good course grades; (2) there are a small number of ways to deal with assignments – in STEM classes, equal to the number of examples in the textbook; and (3) if the students just ask the instructor, she/he will tell them “everything they need to know” to get good grades and have a career to make them wealthy. Not all of the students mind you but most… So the first task I had (but should not have faced) was bursting these bubbles. Heeding advice of a valued colleague to never ask something of students for the first time on exams, I made sure that effective problem solving on all types of questions – including short essay – was encountered in classroom exercises and homework. The novel experiences, at least as I interpret the phrase …

    An associated recollection: I had a student come to my office after a graded exam was returned to the students – seeking a higher grade as regularly happens to all educators. He said “I don’t think I got enough points on question one.” Comparing the exam to my rubric, I pointed out to the student where the answer was incomplete or wrong. “Oh, well what about question two?” the student asked. Again comparing the exam to my rubric, I again pointed out where points were deducted (I was right both times as often happens but not always of course). “I see,” the student said, “what you want is for us to be able to think.” And my response was “YES I DO!” To the student’s credit, the grades did improve!

    Those novel experiences … We educators do need to make sure our students encounter them; and standardized bubble tests won’t succeed in accomplishing the task!

    Posted by John Bennett | April 21, 2012, 9:19 pm
  2. I think here about all the times teachers and students either imagine themselves going in different directions (unbeknownst to them) or think the other knows what’s going on, so here’s to communication, exploration, & really authentic education –

    Best wishes , Jamie!

    Posted by Chad Sansing | April 22, 2012, 9:37 am

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