Today, I lost my mind at lunch, blamed it on the full moon, and called myself a witch. Unfortunately, when I get frazzled, it's clear to everyone, including those that probably nudged me into this mental state. I'm transparent, open, and too easily affected by what happens in the classroom. I woke enthused to talk about manifestos in newMedia Lab. In the morning, I went from connected and inspired by my students from the usually reticent class to pulling teeth and begging for focus with my often conceptual class.
What was the difference? I could swear it was something as simple as the room we were in, but I hope not. That would mean our ideal isn't the ideal.
I hope that at the school that initially prided itself on having no walls has not grown to operate most efficiently within a box of construction material. Are we too easily distracted by the world around us to develop any meaningful understandings about the world on which we can meditate?
Where are my students that can focus in the circle of shade under a bodhi tree and listen, represent authentic thought, and build on experience to some unique and productive end? A moment with that kind of class gives all this meaning.
Even if there's an opportunity to be flexible with our learning environment, would it still be productive time? Or are we slaves to routine over creative opportunism? Why does learning happen when we put on blinders?
Or maybe that's not the reality. Maybe the lack of engagement in that second Lab had everything to do with my delivery, my shot-in-the-dark attempt to instruct a group of global kids.
To make it simple on a visa form, I call myself a teacher, but when in a school format, I can't pretend to hold a title that implies years of training in a noble art form. I have hits and misses, and the variables are broad in number and scope. One variable could always be my confusion in choosing the right methodology or pedagogy.
The deeply-embedded goal is to instill a desire for lifelong learning and global interest in as many people as possible. I've got this unwavering belief that what I teach in my laboratory on technology and communication is integral life stuff, the seeds with which to plant necessary skills. And for the most part, I structure those seed-planting sessions the way I know that I would respond positively, also hoping my working relationship with the globe-trotters is good enough for them to engage in ungraded exercises. Sometimes, like this morning, my techniques fall short.
How do I learn at this point, after following the teacher of trial and error, after modeling whatever I see that seems to work? How do I learn what I have to learn in order to structure entry points for engagement and increase my batting average? What do I already know how to do and implement successfully?
It feels organic when teaching is directly connected to travel or unrelated to school requirements but not to a classroom education.
At first, my desired result appeared to be an engaged class under the speckled light of rustling tree branches, and now I wonder if I'm focused on an unfounded implication, a picture that doesn't show the necessary scaffolding or stars that must align for that to be the reality. Maybe it's only Buddha's disciples that operate with great mind control, chatting under a tree. Or maybe you have to be a hardass that demands thoughtful attention against the threat of serious embarrassment and pain. Both extremes don't sound like realistic or desirable paths for me.
Regardless of the reasons why it didn't happen, I know what I want: engaged students every step of the way. That investment in time must provide me immediate return, onto which I can bank that long term effects are plausible. I am building daily on a blueprint created many years ago, when a long trip provided me a clear life goal. Of course, I also must find ways to steady my mood and know I cannot control all the variables that allow a student to be an engaged one.
I just want to know I'm making a difference, so I can sit at night, closing a hot laptop, knowing my lifestyle investment is worth something to others. And I think that meaning would look most attractive under a little leafy shade.