Education by Walking, Talking, Mentoring, Learning & Exchanging
How did I come to propose this drastic revamp of our education system for the pandemic and beyond?
- Long before the pandemic struck, I opposed the building of new schools. Instead of the warehousing students in new schools, I have long advocated for the paradigm shift described in this post. Schools may be new but bad habits and attitudes by many students and teachers remain. That’s why we need to change the way we educate kids, not just build new schools to house them.
- As a mall cop with over 15 years of weekend work experience, I encounter belligerent youth raising hell in the mall. My fellow mall cops are amazed at how teachers must have to put up with these kids day in and day out. We only have brief, contentious interactions with them. Teachers must have the patience of saints! We often discuss how these kids might learn best in small group sessions with intensive mentoring.
- As a father quarantined during the pandemic, I have been taking evening walks with my sons. During these 1 mile walks, we discuss all sorts of topics. No subject is off limits. We discuss politics, philosophy, science, current events and whatever is on our minds. Every stroll includes brainstorming. Since they are in their 20’s, they update their old man on high tech stuff. Since I have over 60 years of life/work experience, I share my views of the arch of history and what I call the long-view. This got me to thinking, what if we developed a similar walk-talk-learn-exchange format for our education system. My sense is that more learning could take place in 1 hour in a Socratic exchange format than several hours of classroom lecture format.
- Having been a “student teacher” in Washington DC since I double majored in college in Politics and Secondary Education and I have managed after-school programs in pubic housing sites as a Resident Service Coordinator, I have experienced first hand the value of intensive tutoring over unmanageable large scale classroom settings.
- Having been a VIP (Volunteer In Probation), I have seen the benefits of working one-on-one with a probationer playing basketball, going bowling and just talking.
So how would this “micro learning, intensive mentoring” system of learning work?
- Small groups of students (and in some cases one-on-one mentoring for students needing intensive attention) would experience a “warm up session” where their goals and interests would be explored. During this session, any blockages to learning, personal issues and anxieties could be identified and addressed. Multiple “warm up sessions” might be needed depending upon the emotional state of the student and their aversion to schooling. Having a “learning warm up” would be akin to doing a “warm up’ before a physical workout. During this “warm up session”, learning objectives and goals could be established so the learning session would be more productive. If hunger is preventing learning, now would be the time for health snacks.
- Subsequent learning sessions could then be scheduled with teachers/mentors representing the subjects and activities essential for a well rounded student (i.e., math, science, social studies, reading, writing and physical education). The teachers/mentors would be experts in their respective subjects. Most importantly, their teaching/mentoring would reflect their enthusiasm for their subjects. In my case, I would share my affinity for social studies, history and politics while leaving the math and sciences to teachers/mentors qualified for those subjects.
- Subsequent learning sessions and possibly large segments of the day could have field trips scheduled to explore various careers, cultures, and experiential learning activities (museums, libraries, businesses, etc.). Make learning memorable and relevant. Include reflections before and after these field trips so the students connect subject matter with real world jobs, people, environments and resources.
- Volunteering and in some cases paid stipends for work performed would augment the learning process while providing value to both the community and the students.
- The students would be issued a laptop and guided by the teacher/mentor to research projects, navigate the web/internet, distinguish fact from fiction, and essentially become life long learners. This setting encourages researching, thinking, and problem solving rather than the memorization of facts and figures in the traditional classroom setting. Under supervision, the students would be allowed to play video games so that they also learn the importance of time management and discernment while using technology.
- The teachers role will expand to life-coach and mentor for a more cost effective and meaningful learning experience for the student.
Some advantages to this micro teaching/intensive mentoring format:
- Small group settings are conducive to learning and quality interactions
- Small group settings with social distancing and mask precautions are needed during the pandemic. Safe and essential social interactions needed for healthy development of children could be achieved without the greater chance of “virus super-spreader” situations in big classroom settings.
- Small group settings would be less likely settings for school mass shootings. Its a sad commentary that I have to suggest this as an advantage.
- Small group settings for learning coupled with experiential learning experiences (field trips, job shadowing, guest speakers and hands on experiences) would accomplish in fewer hours what many hours of classroom instruction tries to accomplish.
- Small group settings of students with a healthy mix of socio-economic, racial and cultural backgrounds under proper mentorship has a much better chance of creating the “more perfect union” that politicians and leaders espouse.
- Small group settings enable the teachers to become a mixture of instructor, coach and mentor. Teaming up these teachers in pairs working in tandem would also provide transparency, accountability and enrichment/support for all concerned (both teachers and students).
- Small group settings initially sound more expensive but in the long run the students might learn quicker and in a more cost effective method.
Who knew it would take a pandemic to get us to re-think the entire format of our education system?