Utne Reader Project, June 1998

greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Learning in the Key of Life by Jon Spayde, June 1998, pp. 45-49 The Whole World is a Classroom

I was drawn to this article because of the key words, learning and life. I found it to be a refreshing and enlightening look at the education that takes place during the course of our everyday lives. The essence of the article reflects the opinion that the best education combines the school experience with a variety of social, cultural, spiritual, and personal experience and reflection. We need to make the most of our experiences by analyzing and questioning in order to create a meaningful experience. The old saying The whole world is a classroom... is quoted in the article, because the author believes that lifes daily struggle, as well as joys, can be the best learning environment. Working with others is an important ingredient that contributes to the success of learning from our experiences.

It also made clear that our society by in large, places too much emphasis on fast moving knowledge, such as technology, training and competition, which are superficial and not lasting. It fails to build on long-lasting societal qualities, such as resilience and harmony, which are built into a society slowly and through quality education and experiences that are meaningful. Workers are trained in certain skills to be effective in one area only and to be competitive with one another instead of working together. Our society as a whole is too busy to take time for much needed social, cultural, and spiritual reflection.

While reading this article I found myself looking back on the best learning experiences that I can recall. My education in the school setting provided a lot of information, knowledge, and basic skills, but I do feel that I learned the most from my life experiences. For example, taking education classes in college taught me some of the theories behind a certain way of teaching, but when I actually worked in a school I discovered that many of the theories/techniques were not useful, in part due to my inexperience. I learned from the modeling of experienced teachers and from trial and error. Eventually, some of the theories/techniques that I had been exposed to in college began to make sense as I was able to have real experience with them, struggle with them, reflect, upon them, and/or modify them; others I discarded completely.

In discussing this article with colleagues, we applied this article to working with students now. They feel, as do I, that children learn best from hands-on experiences and from working with others. For example, learning how to count money works best if students have the time to actually hold and explore coins, play with them, pretend to shop with them, share their experiences with money, talk to their peers about the differences in the coins etc. If students do not have experience handling money at home, the concept is so much more difficult to teach. We must provide that background experience for them, so we can build upon it.

One other point that came up in our discussion, was the issue of quality teaching, in reference to our fast-paced, competitive society. Taking the time to teach students using hands-on methods, taking the time to discuss social behavior, cultural events and the reasons behind them, and giving students experience with all of these things, are all important to the people I work with. Everyone agreed that our society is so busy and complex, that we need to focus on teaching quality material in a manner that is best for our students. Computer technology may be important in our competitive society, but teaching students to read well, understand and discuss what they have read, and work with others is more important in the big picture.

Submitted by

Lisa West

October 25, 1998

Answered by Lisa West (rainy@norshore.net) on October 25, 1998.

-- Anonymous, November 04, 1998

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