Friday, February 24, 2023

F ³: Leave a Trail


College actually made me realize I like learning... they should really start off high school with taking classes you actually want to take. - - Jude Jawhar

I’ve saved that quote from a former hcpss high school student since 2018. I found it on Twitter and it instantly resonated with me. I remember longing to pursue the subjects I was passionate about in high school. I struggled with the endless burden of the classes I “had to take”, many of which seemed to reinforce, day after day, how bad at school I was.

I know now that I was battling undiagnosed ADHD. All I knew then was what adults asked me over and over again: 

Why do you only do well in the subjects you’re interested in?

They asked that like it was a bad thing.

Recently I came across a tweet from Pam Moran, co-author of Timeless Learning and a former teacher, principal, and superintent in Albermarle County, Virginia.

How do learners' desire paths in schools become visible? Shape adult actions? Communicate to us? What does it mean to codesign learning in a desire paths model? 

On the top right you’ll see some notes jotted down during a group session or workshop:

- Built-in enrichment time

- More classes designed around specific student interests to increase engagement 


- More Support for non-college careers 

- same grading for art and core classes 

-more internship opportunities 

“Desire paths”. I hadn’t heard that term before. When I looked it up I found pictures. Lots of them.

Desire paths, as the name indicates, are informal pathways created by pedestrians, bikers, and animals that carve out routes considered more desirable to travelers.

Oftentimes, these paths are shortcuts or easier routes than the paved routes in place. Desire paths can be seen cutting across fields, through lawns, and around buildings.

The path from Point A to Point B looks very different in the office of a landscape architect or an urban planner than it does on the ground. Despite best intentions, the built environment doesn’t always fit the needs of the people it’s meant to serve. - - Elizabeth Borneman, Urban Geography 

So how does that apply to education?

Students will tell you what they want and need. We could learn a lot from them - - if we were truly listening. Educational initiatives that respond and collaborate based on that knowledge will be tapping into the learners’ passion and motivation.

The results can be more than what we call traditional academic success. The outcome is a self-motivated lifelong learner. It starts with recognizing and supporting the desire paths of students. That’s a powerful choice in itself. 

Despite best intentions, the [school] environment doesn’t always fit the needs of the people it’s meant to serve.

Students shouldn’t have to wait until college to have the freedom to truly pursue their interests. For one thing, it’s exhausting. For another: not everyone goes to college. There’s something tremendously elitist in doing things that way. It’s also self-defeating. 

Do courses detached from the realities of students’ lives work for most students? Courses that don’t adapt because they’re not built to adapt? Well, did they ever? - - The Desire Path of Empty Classrooms, Karen Costa, Medium

Finally, here’s a  cartoon that brought back the memories of school years, especially high school with a vengeance. If we are still saying this to kids today, we are failing them.

Missing the Mark, Eliza Fricker

Excuse me. Why can't I learn about my interests?

Life is about doing things because you have to. The earlier you start the easier for everyone.

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