Schoooool’s out forever!
Okay, not really. But our first summer term for MIT is over! Whoa! It seems like it went so quickly; but I guess that’s what happens when you’re in the same room with the same people for eight hours every day.
On our last official day of class (Tuesday), we each shared our zines that we made with about half of the class, then did a little bit of reflecting on the term. Specifically, we were to share our answers to four questions with a partner: “When was a time during this summer term that you laughed so hard you were about to cry?” “What are some new friendships that you’ve formed?” “What is a choice you made that you have really appreciated?” “When was a time that you felt especially competent?”
Apparently, those four things (laughter, friendship, choices and competency) are four factors that make an environment conducive to student learning. So, I’ve decided to use those categories as sort of wrap-up reflection categories for this post about the summer. I’m going to start out with the first two tonight (laughter and friendship), and hopefully I’ll be able to come back and finish up with the last two before I forget or get some sort of burning desire to post something else. Anyway:
We have had so much laughter with each other outside of class: Playing Settlers of Catan, barbequing, celebrating the end of the term at Twigs, making s’mores at Jon’s house, staying up too late talking and hanging out, playing Wii Sports, etc. For the sake of this post, though, I’m going to focus on some laughter inside of class.
One of the gems that we learned from Jerry (a guest lecturer) on Tuesday was the banner that hangs up at his middle school: “Learning is noisy.” At this school, if students are sitting quietly and listening to the teacher, something is wrong. It’s a dynamic environment that sounds unusual at first, but begins to make more sense. The MIT program is not focused on being rigorous and whipping us into shape (at least, not during the summer term); instead, it is focused on helping us learn some basics. And let me tell you, we can get noisy.
That being said, we have had some great moments of noise and laughter during our classes. The best example in my mind is I think of the time when my group was giving a presentation and explaining how a teacher could use a blank Dinosaur Comic to assess reading comprehension in any subject area. Students demonstrate their comprehension by recontextualizing their knowledge into a blank comic. It’s kind of like writing a sonnet, only a little bit sillier. Our group had decided that we would demonstrate by filling one out as a class on the document camera. We asked for a volunteer, and a Health and Fitness major suggested that we make a Dino Comic about sexually transmitted diseases. It could have gotten out of hand, but our class actually made a charming (and hilarious) little story about why T-Rex should make wise decisions and use protection. The class was rolling on the floor. We range in age from 20-50(ish), but we released a little bit of the junior high humor in all of us. And you know what? We learned about STDs AND we showed that the strategy can work in nearly any content area!
This has really been the story of the program so far. Even though our official orientation was a little bit rocky, we have done a great job of building a learning community. I don’t think anyone in the program feels left out; we each have our little niche. And even though we spend eight hours together every day, we still enjoy hanging out after school and on the weekends. For the most part, people in this program don’t get tired of each other. I think that’s really something special.
Because I worked as an RA the past two years, building community has become fascinating to me. How do we learn to live/work/play with one another? Fortunately, it’s a focus in this program as well. My slightly-adapted version of Dr. Mandeville’s student life mantra seems to apply so well, in fact, that I’ve incorporated it as a portion of my vision statement: “Build community, grow adults and let good things run wild.”
The mixture of people is pretty entertaining; we span a roughly 30-year age range, but some common goals has brought us to Whitworth. The age differences seem to melt away when we’re in class discussions. I know as one of the younger people in the program, I really appreciate being treated as an equal by my elder classmates. One of my teaching gurus once told me that journalism is important because everyone has a story. It has been so fun for me to meet all of these people and begin to figure out some pieces of their stories. We have almost a full calendar year left together, and I’m excited to find some more pieces.