I was reading the current issue of WIRED magazine, which announces that virtual reality goggles have finally arrived, for real, seriously! In a sidebar to the article, the editors chide that “WIRED is uniquely positioned to herald the arrival of virtual reality. After all, we’ve been doing it for 20 years.” (scroll halfway down this page) They quote similar declarations from 1993, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2008. They thought they were right … every time.
It made me think about my October 2010 blog post, when I wrote “50skatekid worked! The academic nosedive is a distant memory, and Logan is now holding steady at a comfortable cruising altitude!” I spoke too soon. Logan just finished tenth grade, and his grades were Cs and Ds. His teachers (including me, his English teacher) all did their best to motivate him, but he still doesn’t like to read and write. (No surprise. Who likes doing what you’re not good at?)
Watching the Ben Foss video posted below made me realize two things. First, unlike the technology for virtual reality, Logan is not an engineering problem to be solved. In his closing, (11:36) Ben reminds his fellow dyslexics in the audience that they are not broken. While living with dyslexia may be viewed as a problem to be solved, dyslexics don’t need fixing. That’s a critical distinction.
Second, I shouldn’t use Logan’s report card as a measurement of success. The goal I’m shooting for is not a better report card, per se. The goal is for Logan to look at himself in the mirror and say, “My brain is awesome. I’m an entrepreneur. I’m creative. I’m fun.” (2:05) He’s started to believe that. Stay tuned.
“Horace Mann, was born on this day in Franklin, Massachusetts, in 1796. He grew up without much money or schooling, and what he did learn, he learned on his own at his local library, which had been founded by Benjamin Franklin. He was accepted into Brown University and graduated in three years, valedictorian of his class.” (5/4/2014 Writer’s Almanac) I love this combination of (unmentioned) real-world, hard-knocks education and library-based, self-taught academics. The recipe obviously worked for Horace Mann, “the father of American pubic education.”
Two years ago, I boasted that 50skatekid worked. Logan returned to public school after our trip, and he earned a spot on the “B Honor Roll” during his first quarter of seventh grade. He spent middle school learning all the things that a teenager misses on the road with his dad – about friends, about girls. Now, he’s a student at South Kent School, which is a good match for his learning style. South Kent is a leading one-to-one iPad school, which appeals to Logan’s interest in technology. The students are all boys, and the curriculum is hands-on, based on the hero’s journey theme. This school understands that every student is on his own epic quest to find himself and to forge his own unique destiny. That’s why I took this job. That’s right, I teach tenth-grade English. So, in some ways, we’re on another adventure together.
If you were ever a teenager or you ever read science-fiction and fantasy novels, you should listen to this clip from This American Life.
While reading The Case Against Homework, this quote grabbed me.
“I have elementary school children coming in who are highly stressed and miserable,” says pediatrician Rochelle Feldman. “They feel like failures at the beginning of school. One of the most important things you need to do for kids is establish school as a great place to be, that learning is fun and they can be successful these. That is actually the main task of the first three grades. So you’re taking a tremendous risk with issues of self-esteem and self-confidence if you make it drudgery instead of fun.” The book is fairly one-sided, but the evidence supports a policy of individualized, developmentally appropriate education.