My Favorite Quote!

So just over a week ago I was in Singapore for our Spring holiday and it was truly amazing. We went as a family to enjoy some warm weather, to see some old friends, and to spend some quality time with each other away from China and our regular, day to day lives. On one of the days, as I was watching my kids play in the water with some new found friends, I got thinking about one of my favorite all time quotes. This quote has come to define much of how I view what’s important with regards to learning, and I often use it when parents ask permission to pull their kids out of school for special events, family outings, extended holiday adventures, or opportunities that a kid might have otherwise missed out on that would have for sure positively impacted their life. This quote from Mark Twain, which I’m sure you’ve all heard before, goes something like this…DON’T LET SCHOOLIN’ GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR EDUCATION! I love this quote so much, on so many different levels, and for so many different reasons, and this week I’d like you all to think about it as well…particularly with our week long China Trips fast approaching.

I think back to many of the defining moments in my life, when profound, real life learning experiences shaped who I am today…as well as to how much my own kids absolutely explode in one way or another when we head off on a family adventure, and I’m reminded how life outside of the classroom can be so monumentally important. I got thinking about this incredible family at our school who took a few extra months off to sail from France to California through the Northwest Passage on their 50 foot catamaran last summer. They learned about math by studying depth charts, and by using different navigational techniques to plot their course, and by figuring out how currents and wind effected their speed…they learned about science by studying the constellations, and by observing the diverse marine life and various marine ecosystems that they came across…they learned about different countries and cultures and their rich histories…they learned how to fish and cook over an open fire…they learned to kayak and parasail and play guitar and so many more cool things directly because of this fantastic experience. This family’s adventure put an exclamation point on the importance of giving our students opportunities to learn real life skills that can only happen outside of the parameters of the traditional text book and lecture classroom model. Programs like outdoor education, week without walls initiatives or our similar China Trips, service learning opportunities, rich and robust advisory and character education programs where students can learn not only about themselves, but how to succeed and achieve in real life situations, and learn to develop the skills that will be useful and necessary as they blossom into adulthood and venture out into society on their own.

I guess what I’m saying is that there is so much that goes into a strong, holistic, and well rounded education, and as educators I believe that we need to look hard for opportunities for our kids to learn in these real life ways. We need to bring in guest experts and lecturers, we need to head out on field trips, we need to find ways to bring project based learning into our curriculum, we need to embed technology into much of what we do, and we need to provide experiences that teach our students about real life, as opposed to some abstract view of someone else’s experience that in no way relates to who they are or what they’re going through. Take a look this week at your programs and reflect on what it is that you’re teaching your students. How much of it will really stay with them over the next several years, and how is this learning actually impacting who they are…or more importantly, who they are going to become. When I think of that quote, I picture this old, early 20th century approach to education and it makes me wonder…with all that we now know, have we changed anywhere near enough?? Anyway, I hope you’re as excited about the upcoming China Trips as I am…definitely one of the best weeks of the year in my opinion. The learning will be rich and the changes in our students will be lasting and profound. Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week……
Don’t let schoolin’ get in the way of your education – Mark Twain

Wonderful TED talk – Andrew Solomon (one of my all-time favorite)
Inspiring Thai Commercial – (VPN in China…please watch!)

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