This is the 11th annual Labour Day post.
Years ago I took a course with a professor by the name of Jerry Clarkson. While there are a few stories I could share related to that course, one of the most prominent memories is how he pushed students to question the definitions and rationales they associated with schooling, education, and curriculum. It was during this time I first encountered an outlook on preparation attributed to Richard Feynman:
First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.
At the time, and since, it seemed to mesh well with a values based approach to instruction that I had been introduced to in my teen-age years, and so the phrase has lingered in my reflections ever since.
As we begin a new September, there is little denying there is a great deal of uncertainty in a host of areas. This can seem troubling, and even overwhelming. Under pressure there can sometimes be a tendency to withdraw, and just focus on how to get by, how to tick the boxes, how to get to the finish line. After all, there is a lot of positive to say about well planned processes, and detailed procedures. However, it’s important to remember that reflections, discussions, and debates – yes, healthy constructive debates filled with listening – about the overarching purpose of our endeavours can make our choices about the details more straightforward. Spending quality time on the why can guide us when we are faced with questions and pressures from without and within regarding the how.
As new sporting seasons start, as new semesters and terms get underway, as the summer gives way to autumn, as new adventures present themselves, as new curriculum and new jobs continue to take root, let us find value in taking the time to talk about the why and the what. It will lead to clear intentions, and thoughtful integrity. Then, through common sense of community, respect, and acceptance, the how should be clear.
Thank you – merci.
ps – for the first time since 2008 I’ll begin September without Angus as a teaching partner. I don’t doubt it will be a challenge – but, challenges are connected to opportunities. While he will be missed as a teaching partner, I truly and deeply wish him all the best. This year’s song is for him: