Being a teacher, what I am about to say my be considered blasphemous to others in the profession, and there is no way that I will be sharing this post with my administrator because I am pretty sure that she feels the opposite way. But the classroom is a toxic place to the education of modern students. Tests do not teach anything except how to fill in bubbles. And in order to prepare these students to solve the problems that will grow in their futures, we need to quit thinking about the way that we have thought about education and need to move it beyond the confines of the four classroom walls.
Even though I say these things often, there are not many people in the profession who agree with me, or if they do, they are not willing to make that change to a messy form of education that might be more conducive to create the skills that their students will need in the future. I would even admit that during the belly of the school year, I fall into the same trap of going back to what is easy and more familiar. In others words, I do not always practice what I preach.
The school I do work at right now does recognize that it is important to move beyond the classroom in one of the programs that it does promote, and I love the fact that I am a part of creatine one of the experiences for the students at that school. Every year, three weeks after the first day of school, we pack all of the sophomores in the school into a bus and ship them out to the center of South Korea to a camp called Boramwon. There we have created challenges for the students that get them to think outside of the box more, and learn those skills that they will need to take on the challenges they will face later on in their lives. We structure the experience around Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and it has grown into a greater experience every year that we have gone out to this. There are still some holes in the story, but the fact that the evolution of the trip continues to grow, and the students get experience the hero’s journey for themselves shows that they start to internalize the experience more than just get ready to fill in the right bubble when it come up for them on a test.
The trip is designed to take the students out of their comfort zone, and learn about the real world. They start to learn that they do not learn from only their teachers but from every person they encounter, and every moment that they live. It helps to shape them into who they are. We started our first day by visiting various retirement homes around the Boramwon area. There the students put on a performance for the residents, and then they taught them about an American game that many of them had never experienced before, Bingo. This was a great opportunity for both the students and the residents. Because of the language barriers, and the teaching of this game, the students were forced to interact with the residents. There is a lot that they can learn from these interactions. The people that they are working with become the mentors to them, and eventually teach the students what it means to be a mentor in the first place.
We also were able to take students out to show them a little bit about their Korean heritage. The school I teach in is an international school with a predominately American curriculum, and sometimes American values and culture is prioritized over the culture of Korea. Not all of the students that attend the school are Koreans, but there is a huge portion of them that are, and they do not learn much about their history or culture. I believe the opportunity for them to learn a little bit about where they come from is essential and this opportunity becomes their special weapon that they can take with them into the future.
The cultural experience that we took them to on the first day was a pottery museum near Boramwon. Here, they not only got to look at traditional Korean pottery, but they got the opportunity to create their own piece of pottery using clay from the region. They were really able to learn about where they are from while getting their hands dirty working on a creative project. Yes, some of these same activities are available within my school, but students do not always look for the creative classes thinking that the ones that lead to a test that proves their worth with bubbles is more important. Sometimes, the act of creating something from scratch can be more rewarding.
It was the perfect set-up to the bigger adventure that these students would go on, and I am happy that I was able to be a part of it once again. It shows me what education can be and how the future of this world depends on educators getting their students out of the classroom more often.