Jordan and I are both in finals this week, I as an adult student and he as a high school senior. My oldest son and his fiance, both university professors, are also in finals week, but on the giving end of the stick. They both assign papers rather than give exams because “everyone gives the students tests. They need to learn how to write critically…think rather than memorize.”
Dropped smack in the learning lab this week, and seeing learning and assessment of learning from these different perspectives, makes me think about learning in general. For me, it’s why we’re here on the planet–to be lifelong learners. My goal as a parent is to create lifelong learners of my children. I want them to keep being curious about the world they came to explore, to learn new things, and to follow their bliss in a way that makes the world a better place. In a way that brings them joy. If they are generated by learning, I feel confident they will follow this path.
I love each step of the learning process, including the evaluation at the end to integrate what’s been learned. For my youngest son, he’s just pretty “done” at this point of the term and eager to move into a two week break. I get that because the assignments he is often given are not higher thinking assignments. They’re busy work products to justify process.
For my oldest son at this stage in his life, I imagine reading through those papers teaches him as much as it does his students. As a freshman English TA during my Master’s work at Occidental, I can tell you this happened for me, especially when it came to learning the reality of how ill-prepared many incoming freshman were in the writing realm. That’s education at its best…when both the teacher and the learner are learning, both about each other and about the bigger dynamics at play.
And yet, anxiety is so often wrapped up in these stages. Why? Is it due to procrastination? To overwhelm? To not understanding? To not trying? Is it perfection issues that spur on shame-based thinking? Being critiqued? Evaluated? Not being good enough? Not measuring up?
I blame the Bell Curve.
To me, it’s an issue with our larger education system. We assess our kids in weird ways from the time their young. I remember so many parents coming to parent/teacher conference meetings most concerned about their 7 and 8 year olds spelling test grades on a weekly basis. This was how they measured their child’s intelligence. (Side note: DON’T DO THAT.) Try as I might to re-educate my helicopter fams, they were working off a system that had been ingrained into them a generation before, where desks were in rows and there was no talking.
Alas, we are moving into a new era of transformation in all systems. As with any birth, it’s messy, but what comes out in the end is pure magic. As I study for my final, I soak up the enjoyment of the process of remembering what I know and how to apply it to life. That’s really the point in the end, isn’t it?
My oldest son asked his students at their last class this term what they learned. They said, “Question everything.”
I’m so proud.