Education Hacking

So today a few of us went to Bright Futures, which is a program based out of Eastern Michigan University that goes to “At-Risk” middle and elementary schools around the area and offers students after-school or summer program options. It’s a pretty awesome organization and is the inspiration for me to do the summer camps and other kid orientated stuff in our own space. Well, a few weeks ago, I went to the first class I had been to in about a year. A few weeks passed and that brings us to today. Day 1 of our triumphant leader being on vacation and all 4 of us had to wake up at the crack of dawn and go teach kids.

So in today’s class, I noticed there was a kid that no one wanted to be in a group with, so I automatically put him with my group. I know all too well how it feels to be picked last for gym class, lab partners, and other such group activities. It didn’t take long for me to understand why no one wanted to be in a group or teach him. He didn’t understand directions the same way a s a lot of kids. When I had to explain it another way, the other kids sighed deeply out of boredom and frustration of having to be in the same group as him. It was challenging, not only finding a way to get the point of the lesson across to him, but not to alienate him from the rest of the group, or spend all of my time with him and not the others in my group.

We taught the kids about breadboards and motors, and of course there were a few times that I had to grab the attention of the room due to kids being loud, craving attention, or getting distracted by others, but it was awesome. In the car on the way back we discussed the students that were easy to teach, and why we thought the more difficult ones were so hard. It’s interesting to see how people react to having to shift teaching styles so many times in an hour. It’s also interesting hearing adults saying stuff like “Yeah, I hate teaching so-and-so, he’s so difficult.” I have done this before too, but I don’t think I’ve ever avoided putting a child in my group because I would get annoyed. I would love to record how I teach, I think it would be very enlightening.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think any of us (maybe one of us) have any sort of formal training in the educating of children. In a lot of ways, I think that’s a good thing. We don’t have a whole bunch of jaded, underpaid, beaten-down-by-the-budget-focused-school-board instructors telling us how we should handle a classroom full of minds to mold. We don’t worry about tests or getting things right. We don’t say “You’re doing it wrong.” We guide them into the learning process, and there’s no manual for that. I’m not saying that the system that teachers use doesn’t work, I’m just saying it doesn’t work for everyone.

In a lot of ways, we have no idea what we’re doing, and it’s kind of amazing that way. We learn alongside the kids we instruct, and I look at it as we’re on equal grounds in two different sports. It’s the true Hackerspace philosophy, people teaching each other. It’s organic and true. It turns facts and education into an experience, and experiences never leave you, even if you forget how to do the thing you were taught in the first place.

In conclusion, I love teaching kids, but I don’t ever want to get a degree in it.

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