An Education Worth Having: Balance by Clark Wight

An education worth having. What does it look like, sound like and feel like in action?  I was incredibly lucky towards the end of last term to wander into a classroom and find it. Educational light bulbs were going off everywhere as students taught me a lesson in balance.

Let me set the scene for you:

  • A Year 4 classroom
  • 20 + students
  • A general hubbub of activity, movement, and engagement
  • 6 desks set up with giant balances, those big plastic ones with the bucket on either end
  • Counters, weights, objects from the classroom (plastic bears, die) and from outside (rocks, sticks and dirt)
  • One challenge - how many mathematical equivalent combinations can you make?
  • An example from one group included:
    • 3 sticks + 4 bears (large) + 2 dice (both red) = 4 tablespoons dirt + 17 plastic coins
    • 1 GGS School tie = 11 dice
What I saw was early algebra using knowns and unknowns to create an equation that was equivalent.  I saw creativity, wonder, ‘what if’ and, most importantly, conversations around mass, volume, measurement, and creativity. They achieved understanding through experimentation and failure, and they had hands-on experiential learning and depth of understanding. Through hands-on learning and experimentation, they gained deep understanding for the curriculum content required, as well as preparation for future concept - 3S + 4B + 2D = 4TB (dirt) + 17C.  Each variable had an unknown mass, but one they could determine (which they did later with electronic scales). It was educational and learning gold in action.

Then I saw it. The parallels to an education worth having is all about finding the balance.

I still remember my teacher walking into the class one day saying, “Today we are going to have a fulcrum day.” He said the word ‘fulcrum’ at least 100 times before recess.  We were abuzz! What is this fulcrum thing our slightly crazy teacher is talking about? After recess we found out. I loved that day and lesson and have never forgotten that incredible word, that means the point against which a lever is placed to get a purchase, or on which it turns or is supported. A thing that plays a central or essential role in an activity, event, or situation.
 
So, the balance in an education worth having is between:
  • Creativity and memorisation
  • Creating learning and replicating knowledge
  • Skills and content
  • Deep slow learning and quick fast and memorise
  • Homework and home learning
  • Convergent education theory and divergent emerging theory
  • Academic learning and learning for life
  • School skills and life skills
  • School and life

There are so many more and we hope you can add to this list, because the secret of an education worth having sits in the balance between two crucial forces.  If we go too far in one direction we become ‘unbalanced’.

I believe that education as our students experience it is unbalanced. We need to find better ways to keep the essence of all that is currently great in education and balance it with all that we know our children need for life at school and beyond. An education worth having finds this balance. The fulcrum sitting at the centre of these balancing forces is not political, not a governing body, not the teacher and not a certain school. The fulcrum lying at the centre is student engagement. That is our measure of balance and our fulcrum. It is the point of excitement, rigour, creativity, deep learning, connection and engagement that needs to be at the very centre. We need to reconnect so that our fulcrum, our point of balance, is the individual and not the system.

Let’s get balanced.

 
Mr Clark Wight
Head of  Preparatory School
 
 
 

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22 Jul 2020 - 9:15 AM
GGS Admin
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