Friday, March 11, 2011

How I Spent my Vacation...

Spring Break. So I broke a little, but E and A made sure I didn't take it too easy. Ah, the life of a non-traditional student.

One thing I did do, was work on my Education project: a 10-hr. observation of an educational setting. I am fascinated by project-based learning and how it is used to create an entire curriculum in a classroom where the students make most of the choices about what they learn. It's not as loosey-goosey as it sounds, and there's a whole rubric set up to help students select projects and define the way they are investigated. There's a charter school in Beloit, that is part of the public school system but is entirely project-based and I spent Monday seeing how it all works.

It was so interesting to watch the kids and think about my own prejudices about how school should run. What was remarkable was how engaged the students were and how sophisticated their projects--and their descriptions of these projects--were. Everyone one I sat down with could pull up research they'd used (not just wikipedia) and could describe how they were turning this research into a final project--short story, 1/4" scale model, song, concert. For the quantifiers in the audience, the test scores are the same or a bit higher than the kids in the regular middle and high school (partially due to all the reading) and almost all graduates go on to college. So why not let the kids call the shots--within reason?

There seem to be some weak areas (math, science), but on the whole I couldn't really see how this form of learning would be less effective than a teacher-centered, lecture-based approach. And I could see how it would be a lot more appealing.

So, re. yoga. It seems like we're stuck in a very teacher-based form of instruction, and I'm not sure that such a good thing either. Very traditional. Very susceptible to ego trips and misinformation.

Of course, you have to learn how and probably some why at first. A sensible framework to organize the information is good, too. But the endless celebration of this guru and that superstar, and this brand and that patented technique gets awfully far from the whole point of this practice, which is to unite within oneself. Isn't it?

One thing an advisor (not "teacher") at the charter school told me, was that kids who want to be told what to do and simply perform to get a grade never last very long at the school. They can't handle the freedom and the responsibility. Which is fine, some people can't. But I wonder if that's the case with so much of the yoga teaching in the West--people want some one to boss them around and grade their asana. Anyone who finds that model confining and paternalistic is seen as suspect--all this "us vs them" that seems to be such a desired dichotomy to establish.

Carol H. keeps writing about Yoga 2.0 and I think it has potential to move us away from this more traditional way of thinking about instruction. I don't really mean that a yoga class will become project-based, but maybe in terms of the discipline becoming less dependent on master teachers and all that. Stop grading (or *sigh* awarding olympic medals) and start investigating.

I dunno, is that too radical?'s up!

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