Everything’s Coming Up Rosen: It’s back to school time

Posted on 31 July 2013 by LeslieM

By Emily Rosen



Where did the summer go? It gets shorter every year. All around me are the signs, the marketing, the reminders, the reach for dollars in the name of our kids. It’s back to school time.

I was thinking of that theme tonight while watching the 60 Minutes interview with Bill Gates, the famous Harvard dropout I reflected on the many ways we learn that have nothing to do with school. When our official book learning curriculum comes to a halt, life learning takes its place and self motivation is the engine that really defines the learning curve. Life learning is the school from which we graduate only on the day we are interred.

Alas, that our impoverished world has not produced more Bill Gates. Those of us not so blessed must rely on the creativity of teachers, most of whom are in unimaginative physical settings and must, therefore, in their own small territory, devise ways to keep 21st Century kids from thumbing their way through classes on their smart phones.

I’m hoping that among my readers each of you has had at least one memorable teacher who has sparked an interest in a subject otherwise “dead” to you.

For me, it was Mr. Sayles, my high school English teacher in my senior year, who spent months using as his teaching tool not any book or video. The New York Times was his text. All our lessons had sprung from its content. I remember especially his emphasis on the Book Review section, as we pawed through it for a few weeks, talking about the content page by page. I realize now why on Sunday mornings, as I dive into my Times, I separate the sections – placing the Book Review at the bottom, savoring it for the last and best read, and taking weekly notes regarding my own future reading.

What a dull subject Geography was for me until I was assigned to Miss Martin’s class when we studied the Caribbean countries (at a time when my most distant travel was from Brooklyn to The Bronx, and when I had no hope of ever expanding that horizon). She didn’t have us memorize facts about climate, history, natural resources, politics and history. Instead, my group was assigned to plan a virtual trip to Puerto Rico having to choose a travel agent, transportation (I’d never been on a plane), hotel, sights and finances to the point where we took a class trip to an airport.

How could I have known at the time that I would someday wind up on the streets of Kathmandu, among other exotic locations? My interest in travel was sparked by that early experience.

I’ll save my tirade in the cause of greater support for creative teachers. I can only begin to imagine the many changes in knowledge delivery that have taken place since “my day” and will continue with the accelerated swiftness of our technological age. And, as a one-time parent of school age kids, I know how you can’t wait for the school year to begin!

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