As I made my way to a coffee area known as Joe Coffee on the corner of 12oth, I kept thinking back to seeing Erick Gordon, who had spoke the day I left for New York – at our own American School Foundation. His message was clear, he used a hands-on project-based initiative to reach all of his students. Of course I was intrigued because in this particular case it had to do with publishing, he started with a magazine, then elevated to creating a student press, but the processes that occurred in-between were exciting and modeled what No Child left Behind and Common Core has seemingly yet to do – infuse every day in the classroom as exciting for the teacher and the student. I also muddled in my mind as I made my way through the snowy sidewalks to the front of the Columbia Science Building, it might have looked like his presentation and initiative had to deal with just publishing. It didn’t. We had discussed at the beginning of the year in the Upper School how we could begin to reach outside of the school and impact the community so much more based on things we studied within the school. I thought of so many ways his initiative could occur in so many different areas. From using math to redesign parks that badly needed it in neighboring communities, to having lower school students develop poetry that expressed what they saw and felt in areas around Mexico and their published works as part of a park, to enabling students to improve the skills of neighboring students via a summer arts workshop, writing workshop, art workshop and so much more, it just happened that Mr. Gordon’s area was writing. (Check out this RadioLab Article! – you will LOVE) I felt this is what occurred with the Repentino. magazine, in wanting to bring a renewed sense of energy to the library, and happening at the same time, a student wanting to turn the publication into something more representative of the skills at ASF, we used the literary magazine as a vehicle to create motivation. In Mr. Gordon’s case, the chance to impact, develop, and enhance curriculums became the focus of establishing a student press, a press that dipped into various areas of the curriculum and enhanced them, all the while more learning coming out from that process. It seemed amazing that a project like the original student-based magazine could lend itself to developing yet another branch of learning that would bud into the student press, known as SPI.
I thought, wow, every teacher, at every level, could create one project they do and make it become global if you will, something that could impact others outside of our school, and all of a sudden, a lesson becomes an interactive one that students can see how they can make a difference not only on an assignment, but using this particular project to grow and improve the word around them, be it a new way to look at things, literally dipping into projects and applying the lesson to the world, to people, to communities around them, or even making sure that what they learn is internalized and not just memorized.
I was grateful to meet with Mr. Gordon mainly because I wanted to present to him what we have done as a publication and see where it could go from there. In taking with him, I realized the steps he made from classroom teacher to a pivotal initiator of the student press. I could only hope my past would continue to create steps towards connected projects that would make a lasting impact on continuing the path education could take.
In listening to the RadioLab Article that ties writing to Erick Gordon, and an AMAZING – A M A Z I N G story that ties my own experience with a certain ring round my neck – and a story of finding something so incredibly valuable beside the road and wow – my inner soul that loves writing – connected with the power of words – and hence, the whole lesson of writing and how it can touch lives – is a superb lesson in learning and what paths it can take if allowed to grow, and it could all start within a classroom!
Yet, the story of the last day of Columba’s CSPA Conference, believe it or NOT – does NOT stop here – it continues to grow so stay tuned for one more post 🙂