Where Have You Been?
Joseph Ugoretz | January 22, 2010 | 4:36 pm | Where Have You Been? | No comments

For this first unit, let’s focus the reflections on your educational history.  You’ve read the mini-lectures, you’ve thought about some of the earlier visions of education.

Now give us a brief reflection about your education.  Where did your education begin? What’s your educational biography?

(And don’t limit this to school only.  What have been your best learning experiences so far? Your worst? Did they take place in school, or somewhere else?)

This is really a “looking-backwards” reflection…so tell us about your past.

Protected: Reading, Writing, Learning
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Getting Back On Track
Frieda Benun | February 9, 2011 | 11:21 pm | Where Have You Been? | 2 Comments

As I look back on my twelve years of Jewish day school, it is hard to find a unifying theme on which I might reflect. Rather, my educational history seems disjointed, constantly in fluctuation. So I’ll start from the beginning.

From when I was a toddler, my mother was convinced that she had a baby genius on her hands. She read books to me every night and soon enough, I was reading to her. She made the local preschool accept me a year early, despite the fact that my birthday missed the cutoff date by three months. For a while I showed a lot of promise. I shared my toys with other children, I brought home drawings worthy of being hung on the kitchen fridge, and I was a voracious reader. With an abundance of encouragement from my family and teachers, I felt like a shining star.

First grade arrived, and with it came one of the things I still dread to this day: Math. It became apparent that I had issues when I had trouble distinguishing the number “2” from “5.” Nor could I write them without considerable difficulty. I received substantial help from my teacher, and I eventually learned the difference. We all breathed a sigh of relief; I was still on my way to joining the best and the brightest.

But what started as a small obstacle turned into a massive roadblock. It took full days for me to understand addition. Weeks to get used to subtraction. On a digital clock, I still could not tell a “2” from a “5.” Although I was reading on a third-grade level, it was decided that I needed extra help in math and I was assigned to the resource room. And so, at the young age of six, my ascent to great scholarship crumbled.

My years in the resource room still haunt me. I was forced to spend hours every week with the kids who stole snacks from their classmates and threw sand in their eyes. They taunted, teased, spit, and mocked. And they had not the least bit concern for learning math. I began to hate school. I dreaded each day. And my math skills were still substandard. For the next eight years, I brought home report cards filled with B’s C’s and F’s.

In short, my worst learning experience took place from first through eighth grade.

My luck turned around when I got to high school. By some miracle, I was placed in the honors class in ninth grade, finally in an environment that took learning seriously. I saw my classmates listening to the teachers and taking notes. I followed suit. I soon discovered that by paying attention, taking notes and studying, I could actually succeed. I still had a problem passing my math classes, but school was no longer my adversary. Over those four years, I buried nightmarish days of the resource room in the past and managed to do well in school. I felt like I was back to my pre-first grade days. Despite the eight-year hiatus, I was finally getting back on track.

Reflections on an Educational Life
December Lange | February 8, 2011 | 9:18 pm | Where Have You Been? | 2 Comments

Fortunately for me, my education started long before school. As the first child to be born into my family, I was a new little experiment as everyone adjusted to their roles as parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Since I was the only child in the family, adults talked to me like I was one as well which allowed me to develop vocabulary early and easily. I was also read to very often which fostered the beginnings of literacy and a lifetime love of books. My uncle even started to teach me basic math including multiplication before I started Kindergarten.

Like most children, I had to go through a screening process before I could be enrolled in the parochial school, St. Joseph Elementary School, in my town. I was only four at the time, but because I had drawn eyelashes on my stick figure people during the screening process, I was allowed to start early. My seven years at St. Joe were very much a traditional elementary school setting. However, we had a strenuous Catholic curriculum with very strict dress codes and rules. This last fact has led me to joke that I went to Catholic school for seven years and the only thing I ever learned was that I will probably be going to hell.

When I was in sixth grade, I was identified as Gifted in English, science, and mathematics. I was placed in the district program. Unfortunately, this is the biggest complaint I have about my education experience. I very rarely had a teacher for more than one year and the ones I did have were not qualified to work with gifted children. Many hours were spent working on brainteasers or projects that in no way helped supplement the work I was doing in the classroom. It was incredibly frustrating to have to remain in the program. By the time I was a junior, I very rarely met with my teacher because time spent in the regular classroom was far more valuable.

Like I mentioned in my introduction post, I had a traditional high school experience. I was very fortunate to have collaborative teachers that could engage me. I was also very involved in extra-curricular activities such as tennis, cheerleading, boys basketball manager, newspaper, Student Council, National Honor Society, Family Career Community Leaders of America, and Teen Respect Committee. I really enjoyed my high school experience.

While the above talks about the time I spent preparing for or attending school, I do not consider any of those to be my best learning experiences. The summer before high school, I attended a Duke Talent Identification Program at the University of Kansas. For the first time in my life, I was away from home. During the three weeks I spent studying medical science, I taught myself how to live independently and to effectively juggle schoolwork, activities, friendships, and keeping in touch with family back home. This was an extremely important lesson that helped me greatly during high school and beyond.

My most important learning experience occurred two and a half years ago. On July 2, 2008, my brother, Christian, was born. At fifteen, my maternal instincts kicked in prematurely. I totally immersed myself in the life of this little boy. Suddenly, things that had been priorities before did not matter as much. I was so happy and willing to give up time for school events or with friends to spend as much time with Christian as possible. His birth marked a new learning journey. I learned that there is a two-feet wide splash radius around the bathtub and that babies will eat dog food if it is close enough to the ground. I figured out how to install a car seat and how to do dishes one handed. I learned the words to a score of Beatles songs to sing while I rocked him to sleep. I memorized the words to his favorite book, Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? I now know that formula is extremely expensive and that so far nothing in my life has compared to hearing him say “Sissy” for the first time. Christian taught me how to take care of another person and how to love wholeheartedly and unselfishly. Having him in my life has been the best learning experience I could ever imagine. I did not got a grade for the time I have had with him and I never had to evaluate Christian as a teacher. However, the experience has taught and shaped me more than any classroom ever will.

I’ve Been Wasting My Days… “Learning”
Moses Sutton | February 7, 2011 | 1:50 pm | Where Have You Been? | 3 Comments

“The old rule when I started teaching was ‘never let them see you smile until October.’ And children were ‘seen and not heard.’ And kids memorized.”

This is a quote from Professor Ugoretz’s mini-lecture for this unit. When I look back at my educational history I find myself examining the various facets and subjects of my education through the lens of such old school (School 1.0) adages. In my introduction in the forum I separated my formal education background into religious and secular throughout grades 1-12 and music and liberal arts in college. These exclusively different areas of study have each been approached differently with regards to the method of learning quoted above.

In a sense, the concepts of old school teaching often sacrifice analytical and creative thinking for sponging raw knowledge. They promote rigid discipline versus open-ended discussion. The only area I find that has embraced such an approach in my history is music. Studying music – theory, training the ear, instruments, and vocals – requires unwavering devotion, perseverance, and unyielding willpower to progress. So in such a particular environment the learning experience has mimicked mottos of old. There’s rarely a need for computers and technologies (only those that directly facilitate listening to recordings and watching performances). There are books, pencils, pianos, and lots of memorization. In my experience, the concept of “seen and not heard” has not quite held true but – “never let them see you smile” has. The warmth and openness of the classroom I’ve been accustomed to since grade school disappeared when I entered the conservatory.

Moving backward when I examine my educational experience from grades 1-12 I often feel a sense of disappointment. I find myself blaming the “new system,” the methods of teaching that have “evolved” from School 1.0, for various deficiencies – too low a standard in core subjects such as math and reading, teaching methods that promote laziness, too comfortable a relationship with authorities that obstruct learning and covering ground, and so on.

Perhaps the true culprit and cause of my disappointment is not the modern education system but rather the idiosyncrasies of my educational background. Despite the religious benefits (or requirements) of a yeshiva education, the split curriculum splits the focus. Private institutions of learning often seem to get in the way of their task with religious politics and social community issues causing bureaucratic stalemates and unqualified hires. Aside from a few teachers, it is hard for me to recall true moments or times in my educational history that have had consistent  growth.

I have found that I take refuge in autodidactic learning. Even in music, in the Brooklyn College Conservatory, where the gain is noticeable and steady, the root of my learning is in personally cultivating and nurturing my advancement. My education is primarily drawn from books, Internet, media, travel/tourism, and well even Wikipedia. I feel comfortable as my own tutor or in the hands of dead writers and poets. Perhaps my distrust of and disillusionment from the modern schooling system will be placed in a better perspective from this course.

Learning in Many Ways: My Educational History
Celine Joiris | February 7, 2011 | 11:29 am | Where Have You Been? | 6 Comments

The unifying theme of my education has been its variety; throughout my life, I’ve learned through a wide range of different avenues. I never attended school as a child. But I did do many other things. I played. A lot. I went to museums, I went on road trips, I had long conversations with adults who took me seriously, and defended myself to those who didn’t. I learned dissection from a doctor, rhetoric from a lawyer, and drawing from an artist. I lived and worked in New York, Tokyo, Paris, and Sydney. Later, I turned to more traditional schooling in coming to college. All of these things, and more, are part of what I would broadly term “my education.”

The educational philosophy by which I was raised is generally referred to as unschooling, but I prefer to describe myself and my education as having been free range. As the principle actor in shaping my own education, I was free to follow my curiosity and learn about whatever interested me most. That’s not to say that I was never told I had to learn something – learning to read comes to mind – nor that I never studied something I didn’t particularly want to because I knew it would be important later, but even in these cases I learned at my own pace and in my own way. For the most part I was free to explore essentially anything I wanted, which I did by reading copiously, doing research in libraries and on the internet, corresponding with professionals, and holding jobs and internships. My learning was always facilitated by access to a variety of resources and a great deal of support from my family and the larger community.

The flip side of this was responsibility. When the time came to take standardized tests, I was responsible for preparing myself, again with resources and support. I also had a fair amount of responsibility in my family and household, and that too I consider part of my education. In all these cases, the reasons behind things were always explained to me; I never had to do something because someone said so or because it was arbitrarily deemed important. Looking back, this – being respected and treated as an intelligent and capable person no matter my age – is one of the things I appreciate most about my education.

In addition to learning on my own, I frequently learned in groups with other home educated people I knew, often in the form of relatively casual subject-specific workshops usually taught by one of the parents from the group who had expertise in the area. After finishing “high school” when I was about 15, I began working as a fashion model. This gave me the opportunity to travel to cities around the world, often for extended period of time, which in turn allowed me to learn about a variety of different cultures. I loved my career, but always knew it wasn’t my final destination, so a few years later I settled down in New York once again and entered college.

In college, I’ve continued to learn in many different ways. In addition to classroom work, much of my learning has come from reading widely on my own, discussing material with my classmates, and carrying out research projects, and especially from actively working in my field (neuroscience) by holding research positions in various laboratories, attending lectures and reading relevant academic journals. Looking forward to my continuing education – I’ll soon be preparing to enter graduate school to pursue my doctorate – I think that the ability and tendency to seek out knowledge in many different ways will continue to be a vital aspect of my learning.