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Philosophical Meanderings

The classroom should be the place where the train stopped in the woods

Snowy woodI love traveling by train. I love not having to drive. I love being able to sit and look or sleep or work uninterrupted for hours at a time. A couple times a year is just right.

I took the train from Charlottesville to Philly yesterday for EduCon 2.5. As much as I wanted to sink into the ride and experience its lento, contemplative turn through American east coast strata, I spent most of the ride sucking down cough drops, holding back barks, and trying to squeeze my consciousness out of its headache vise. I felt gross. Still, I was glad to be on the train.

Given rail traffic, light snowfall, and the vagaries of whatever, the train pulled to a stop somewhere in the woods of northeast Virginia, and I was reminded of the most important reason I love to travel by train.

I looked out my window at woods covered in a dusting of light snow. I saw the tress and their bent limbs – some fo them fallen on the ground. I saw a pile of rail road ties and a field out past the tree line. And that picture was mine at just that moment. It was pure discovery and wonder. The owner of the land I saw will never see what I saw. The person in the seat ahead of me saw something different. I won’t see exactly the same sight ever again.

And that is how our classrooms should be.

It’s not exactly that the journey is more important than the destination (which it often is); it’s that we shouldn’t be teaching and learning towards expected outcomes. We shouldn’t spend our careers trying to confirm our own biases about the profession or our kids.

Instead, we should build classrooms and communities in which we can all observe, discover, and own something uniquely ours that comes into being only because we have chosen to travel together, to learn together, and to share together – freely and openly – what it is we make of our time together.

We are not here to do what has already been done. We are here to give the world what it is we sense, think, and do.

For now, that is the singular lesson we should be teaching ourselves.


About Chad Sansing

I teach for the users. Opinions are mine; content is ours.


6 thoughts on “The classroom should be the place where the train stopped in the woods

  1. Nice bit of inspiration to start off the day. Thank you!

    Posted by Justin Lamoureux | January 25, 2013, 11:25 am
  2. Hello! I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile and I was referred to this site as a blogging assignment given by the instructor of EDM 310.
    I’ve only traveled by train once and it was simply for the experience. I traveled through several towns around Birmingham, Alabama just to see what it would be like and I found that I also enjoyed just being able to sit and enjoy the view. I must say that I am very jealous of the view you posted about because we rarely have snow down along the coast. I think one of the most beautiful scenes is that of “woods covered in a dusting of snow”.
    I enjoyed your comments of how this stop made you think of the educational journey we will be taking with the students in our classrooms. I believe that we have become too regimented with our instruction and focused on outcomes. We have forgotten how to take detours from the main lessons in order to discover new territory and see things no one else will see.
    Thank you for the reminder and I hope you are feeling better.

    Posted by Tonya Fendley | January 25, 2013, 10:21 pm
  3. Whose woods these are, I think I know.

    Thank you for the peaceful and poignant imagery!

    Posted by Stephen Hurley (@Stephen_Hurley) | January 27, 2013, 4:08 pm
  4. After someone figures out a way to commodify that place, the method of teaching and or learning that might take place there, that is where a “new and improved” classroom will be.

    Posted by Brent Snavely | January 28, 2013, 8:53 am
    • Not sure I can argue with that, but perhaps some good (relative to what we value now) could come from valuing such work enough to compensate it. Of course, it’ll change once/if it’s popularized/systematized –


      Posted by Chad Sansing | January 28, 2013, 8:59 am

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