Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day of Gratitude #6 – Westminster College

I remember distinctly thinking I was not ready to leave the beautiful Westminster College campus when I finished my graduate program a few years ago. When I started graduate school, I remember feeling like my brain started working again after years of mental autopilot. Sitting in a classroom, carrying a backpack, pacing my days and weeks off of a printed syllabus provided a refreshing challenge at just the right time of my life. Now that I’m back on campus, I don’t carry a backpack anymore but like before, my brain has started working again and this time in a whole different way. It’s been so interesting to sit on the opposite side of academia and each day I find myself comparing and contrasting the academic world with the real educational systems I sampled in Dallas. Over the last few years, like many in my academic cohort, I’ve experienced both the strengths and weakness of the modern American school system…and measured the real world against the educational theories developed by John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner and then later theorized by Jonathan Kozol and Steve Seidel . Kozol’s stark commentary of the current academic inequalities within the modern American school system were at the forefront of my mind while working with Dallas ISD teachers and administrators. I felt like I was living inside any one chapter of his various books. While working at Big Thought my brain was constantly ping-ponging between what I was seeing play out inside over one hundred elementary schools in a huge urban school district and the printed words of constructivist writers assigned to me by the Westminster faculty.  The endless hours spent writing lesson plans that were graded, then revised and graded again helped to develop and refine a skill that led to an opportunity to write curriculum for a national educational model.  Working in Dallas provided an education about education and all through a Texas size lens. It would not have been half as meaningful had I not slugged through grad school at Westminster. And now, like before, being back on campus, as I talk with students who are overwhelmed by the details carefully laid out on a variety of syllabus I continue to see how each individual assignment and project are designed to work together.  When I think about all the projects and readings and assignments I find my brain making brand new connections…to what is actually happening inside schools and the wheels in my brain continue to churn in ways that it hasn’t’ in the past. AND if that were not enough…this time around…they are paying me…I don’t even have to pay tuition for the next round of educational nerd-vonna.  Anyway you slice it…this Westminster things is a pretty good gig.

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