Can scootering save schools?

I have shamelessly re-purposed the title from what has to be one of my new favourite TED talks, alerted to by @malynmawby (Thanks Malyn!). See it below …

Did you catch those points?

  • Failure is normal.
  • Nobody knows ahead of time how long it takes anyone to learn anything.
  • Work your ass off until you figure it out.
  • Learning in NOT fun. (‘Flow’ and  the ‘Goldilocks challenge’)
  • No grades.
  • No cheating.
  • No teachers. (well, optional…)
  • Real-time meaningful feedback.

OK, on the surface of it, like many TED talks – inspirational, catchy, memorable. Don’t get me wrong – I love the clip but it does beg a few questions.

The clip is  is not ‘universal’ in all of its points all the time. Not everything you learn in life is by trial and error on your own, sometimes it is mighty valuable for someone (a ‘teacher’?) to show what (not) to do and for different reasons  – the notion of real-time meaningful feedback Dr. Tae mentions. Sometimes performance is more important than learning, sometimes the other way around and for different reasons (more on that dichotomy here), and so on …

We could start nitpicking here – and miss the good bits!

But here’s a story. A true one.

There is a bunch of very talented scooter riders in my class (scooters or skateboards – same diff in terms of Dr. Tae’s clip). For their first ever Big Picture project, they decided to complement and extend their passion and interest in scootering and learn how to (better) edit a video clip of themselves.

It has required some gentle manouvering of teens who run away from anything smelling remotely like ‘school work’ as they put it. But last week and today, we went to two different local skate parks and filmed them in action.Today, we even took our school media enthusiasts to do the filming!

At first, the four boys almost didn’t believe me we would go and do such a ‘non-school’ thing but signed up enthusiastically. There’s a whole blog post and beyond about what trips and opportunities like these do for building relationships with kids for whom the staff at our school may be just about the only stable adults in their lives but more on that another time.

We had a lot of fun (read meaningful effort!).  The boys scooted their butts off and we got a bunch of still images and video and some of it is simply awesome, judged so even by the kids’ standards themselves!  Over the next three weeks, these four guys will learn how to edit and put together a great mashup of video, stills, audio and special effects, then present the finished product AND the story of their learning to myself, their parents and whoever else they invite to their exhibition (central item in Big Picture approach – what you do is public and you need to ‘stand behind it’).

Here is a small taste of their talent just off my phone, I will feature their finished products (with their permission, of course).

Now, don’t tell me these kids are ‘poor learners’ or carry a learning disability. They must have failed hundreds of times, worked hard and kept going until they landed these tricks … in short, they embodied exactly the points Dr Tae was talking about! They embodied, purposefully and dare say joyfully, not just learning but, more importantly, the power of wanting to learn, even love for learning in their lives.

The words of my wise mentor water polo coach in former Yugoslavia still ring in my ears, now decades past: “Tomaz, your most important job with these juniors is not how to pass the ball and shoot well – your main job is to get them to fall in love with the game.”

Over the coming weeks, we will hopefully use their efforts in scootering to extrapolate and transfer things about the power of ‘love for  learning’ from scootering to other areas in life they come across.

Now, if you think ‘well, scootering isn’t going to get them a job’ or ‘get them to uni’ or ‘teach them geography’ and things like that, you may, but only MAY be right and even so, horribly myopically. Because what I, as a mentor to these kids, know is that these sorts of things have a chance of giving them the confidence, opportunity, resilience, love of learning that no textbook or teacher can teach.

And THAT is what our school is about. And that is what I am about. And that is what so often, so many of our schools, unwillingly, kill off, for the sake of things that simply … don’t matter.

So … can scootering save schools?

Well, that’s a long shot but if joy of learning is something to nourish and stimulate, it has a thing or two to offer, for sure.

PS Inspired in part by Dean Shareski’s piece ‘Why Joy Matters‘, alerted to by Pam Moran. Thank you both!

4 comments

  1. Malyn

    Thanks for the mention. Again, love your post. in fact, I shouted a big yes! to this:

    “Tomaz, your most important job with these juniors is not how to pass the ball and shoot well – your main job is to get them to fall in love with the game.”

    In loving the game you get to love getting good at it as well – and all the hard work that entails.

    Finally, you are sooo right about the ‘MAY’ thing. I have this theory that once you know you’re really good at something, you are a happier person. Reason being, it gives you confidence in yourself, a sense of achievement that is fairly transferrable particularly to similar things. Another great offshoot of this is it becomes ok not to be good at other things and admire those who are because you have a better sense of how to be good at something.

    Good work, sir!

  2. Malyn

    Thanks for the mention. Again, love your post. in fact, I shouted a big yes! to this:

    “Tomaz, your most important job with these juniors is not how to pass the ball and shoot well – your main job is to get them to fall in love with the game.”

    In loving the game you get to love getting good at it as well – and all the hard work that entails.

    Finally, you are sooo right about the ‘MAY’ thing. I have this theory that once you know you’re really good at something, you are a happier person. Reason being, it gives you confidence in yourself, a sense of achievement that is fairly transferrable particularly to similar things. Another great offshoot of this is it becomes ok not to be good at other things and admire those who are because you have a better sense of how to be good at something.

    Good work, sir!

  3. Malyn

    i forgot to mention that your kids can really scoot!

    AND

    I completely support the viewpoint of multiple ways of learning. Trial and error (experience) allows for deep learning but there are other ways, reasons/motivations and aims to teach and learn. Diversity in teaching (pedagogy) encourages diversity in learning strategies and processes.

  4. Malyn

    i forgot to mention that your kids can really scoot!

    AND

    I completely support the viewpoint of multiple ways of learning. Trial and error (experience) allows for deep learning but there are other ways, reasons/motivations and aims to teach and learn. Diversity in teaching (pedagogy) encourages diversity in learning strategies and processes.

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