|Chris is the guy on the left....|
I got to spend a lot of time with a colleague, an art teacher with a strong interest on how science works. We talked, and we listened, not so much on what is called science, though he is interested in that as well, but on what it means to know something in science, or to know anything.
We mostly chatted on the edge of an estuary, under the sun, occasionally stopping to watch a pelican or three glide yards over our heads, to listen to a laughing gull squawk trying to steal a crumb from a naive Iowan.
We paused a lot. (I suspect our neurons branch quicker in the silence than in the noise of human--need both though.)
I think the learned folks call this epistemology--we called it human.
We did what we hoped our students will someday do--that they don't that now is to our shame.
We all "know" what an atom is, or at least what the cultural icon we call atom is. When you push the model, it becomes space and energy levels and predictably unpredictable relationships that defy a concrete model. I did more talking than he did.
We all "know" how to draw a cube, what is should look like, that the vertical lines never meet, and the horizontal ones eventually do. My artist friend drew two sets of lines in perspective--I could tell one was better, but I could not tell why. He did more talking than I did.
We worked our way through our epistemological forest using voices, written words on scraps of conference paper. We talked sitting down, we talked standing up, we talked while we walked, while we ate.
We did it because it matters, true, but mostly because we enjoyed it. The line between our disciplines dissolved a bit, like sidewalk chalk drawings on a foggy morning. The lines are still there, but the edges now blend.
I left Tampa with my neurons connected in altered ways. This is not just a figurative statement. Real learning alters the physical architecture of your brain. It takes a lot of energy, it takes cellular materials your body would gladly use somewhere else with a whisper of an excuse.
It hurts. You're not going to do it for some abstract long-term goal--I'm old enough where a few new synapses will not alter my financial circumstances.
You're not going to do it well if there's no joy.
As we spun our metaphorical atoms and very physical drawings into various hypotheses on how we are who we are, how our environment affects us, how we affect our environment, well, we learned more on how we learn.
Learning how to draw, how to play a trumpet, how to plant a seed, how to make a paper crane, or how to do just about anything for ourselves takes a little pain.
We pretend we do it for the long-term ends, and maybe a few of us do. For me, though, even the awful parts of figuring something out--my first few painful hours blatting on a trumpet also brought pleasure in its joyful noise.
I still have a lot of work to do before I become half the teacher I want to be. I suspect most of us feel the same way, not because we're on some arduous journey to reach the Promised Land of Aypia but because we enjoy getting better.
There is pleasure in creating something new.
There is pleasure in sharing this pleasure.
There is pleasure, real pleasure, in teaching.
We owe it to our children to know this pleasure before we fault them for rejecting what we pretend they ought to know.