I just read this great article from the New York Times called “The Educational Experiences that Change a Life.” Fascinating collection of stories from lots of successful people!
And my brain started churning . . . what were those educational experiences that truly changed my life?
Third grade – We had a claw foot tub in our classroom. It was filled with pillows and we could go sit in it and read. That year every kid made two books. Still have mine. One is a collection of poems and the other is about drugs. I mean, saying no to drugs. We went to see an opera of Where the Wild Things Are and came back to class and acted it out ourselves. Summed up: School is fun.
Fifth grade – We incubated eggs and raised baby chicks. We did experiments on rats – gave one healthy food and the other junk food. We had a hands-on curriculum about U.S. government and citizenship. Summed up: Learning is fun.
High School – Two classes/teachers stand out to me, and amazingly, neither were English. I took a 20th century history class, and that teacher – Mr. Bradshaw – did much more than teach us the facts of history. He helped us see how much events of the past affect the future, and how those events have an impact on individuals. He taught me to think and evaluate, not just memorize dates. We held mock U.N. meetings and even read Fahrenheit 451, and made movies of different chapters of the book. Summed up: We have to think about both the past and the future.
The second class was senior Physics. All of us girls had a crush on the teacher, Mr. Eales. But no, that’s not why that class changed me. Mr. Eales taught the way you are supposed to teach. We did tons of hands-on experiences that year, from kicking soccer balls and measuring . . um . . projection? distance? something like that to designing ramps to laying on a bed of nails. The BEST thing was that he set up a bunch of experiments for us to do using rides at an amusement park!!! It was the most awesome lesson I’ve ever been a part of!!! I came out of that class loving Physics and seeing exactly how it related to my life. Secondly, Mr. Eales talked to us about – well, life. He told things like men should realize it’s okay to be in touch with their so-called “feminine side” as far as sharing their emotions sometimes and women should find that so-called “masculine” confidence and strength. (Basically he was trying to tear down gender stereotypes.) He talked to us about the importance of family. Summed up: The best teacher doesn’t forget about real life.
And lastly, let me just say the biggest “educational experience” that changed me was living in Thailand for six years. I moved there at age 11 and stayed until I graduated from high school. I only wish I could give my own children that experience. I learned to live in a new culture. I learned to speak and read Thai. I learned how to befriend and get along with people from other cultural, religious, and linguistic backgrounds. I learned to appreciate people for who they are even when they are different from me. The day I left Thailand in June of 1996 was one of the hardest days of my life. I left my friends, my home.
And now . . . What was the educational experience that changed YOUR life??