In amongst a million other things I am taking part in an IB Educators’ Network up-skilling course (as part of my role as an MYP Site Visitor). One of the discussion questions asked us to reflect on a memorable learning experience from our own school days. Here is my edited response.
As an educator thinking back on my own secondary education, I am always amazed at how little I remember of the academics. I remember the heartbreaks, rejections, difficulties, funny moments with friends, teenage craziness. Inevitable injuries and rites of passage. But I remember very little of the actual experiences in my classes. It must have worked, though – I know and can do a lot, and can retrieve things I thought I’d forgotten after many years. There is some conceptual and factual foundation there, but little meaning to hang it on.
I do recognise a Year 9 food-tech project as perhaps the most memorable: we had to design a healthy-eating three-course restaurant menu, and connect it somehow to a local charity to support. I chose an otter charity (I think) and put a lot of effort into thinking about the nutritional balance of the meal and the design of the menu. I was proud of it when I submitted it. A few weeks later, the school was contacted and I was asked to cook it in a competition with other students, judged by professional restaurateurs – this was not mentioned at the start of the project. I went along, had fun, learned a lot from the feedback and the whole process felt authentic. My classmate Chris won – I came third and melted a spatula, but it still lingers as an experience I enjoyed. Had I not started working as a kitchen porter in a hotel soon after (experiencing the sweaty reality of catering), my life might have taken a different direction.
I had a good education, but no other experiences felt as immediately worthwhile or as authentic as that. It makes me wonder how much of our day-to-day lessons will be forgotten by our students and if, by really using the Global Contexts, we can create more meaningful and memorable learning experiences. That if by connecting our learning to the wider world, global issues and stimulating problems we can inspire more than academic engagement.
I hope so.