It Takes a Village

As mentioned earlier on this blog, students in our program have traditionally encountered difficulty attaining interviews with experts during our annual autumn Eminent Person study – as well as establishing mentorships in the spring’s In-Depth study. To combat this trend, this year the class enlisted parent volunteers to act as “practice” interview subjects. The topic of the interview was:

As an adult, how and what have you learned related to work, recreation, and parenting?

Today in class students shared their successes and areas requiring improvement as they move toward their “actual” interviews, accessing experts on their selected eminent people, and in the course of a ten-minute class discussion each group boiled down the experience of each member to one or two tips for future interviews that were pooled to create a ranging How To for next time. This conversation will hopefully prove to be useful as students set out again to gather information as part of a larger project. But the true surprise – for me anyway – in the exercise came with the one-sentence summaries of the parent-interviews I had the students complete as a means of checking the homework. I was struck with the parents’ sincerity and wisdom, and am incredibly appreciative that so many of our class’ parent-community were willing to share their thoughts about living, learning and a wealth of diverse perspectives on work and education with our students. What set out to be a practical exercise in carrying out an element of research became not only an exercise in community, but a testament to the power of adding a human touch to the world outside the classroom.

After a long evening of marking students’ blogs – as energizing a marking experience as I have ever had though, each student’s work brimming with confidence and individuality that doesn’t always make it into a “formal essay” (which will be coming up next…) – I am “rewarding” myself in sharing these slips of scrap paper that were today’s homework check, and are filled with the wisdom of my classroom’s extended (yet local) village.

Learning is:

“…patience and allowing mistakes.”


“…will come if you are dedicated and proactive.”

“…personal, and means being prepared to demonstrate the capability to capture opportunities.”

“…comes through experience and memories and from being open-minded.”

Life is your teacher:

“Marriage has been one of the most influential experiences of Mr. A’s  life.”

“Mr. B had no idea what he would be doing after high school; went to university to continue a career in swimming.”

“You can learn parenting from family, friends, school and your own childhood experiences. But in the end, every child is different and requires a different approach.”

“As the world changes, so does parenting.”

What we’ve learned:

“Do what you enjoy doing, love your family, and have some time for yourself. Keep learning throughout your life.”

“Make sure you’re prepared before you act. And check your work and make sure it’s the best that you can make.”

“Learn to appreciate the way light hits things, and look into the beauty of things.”

“There is a big world out there to discover.”

“Enjoy learning.”

“It is important to balance learning about, and becoming part of new cultures, as well as perserving one’s own cutlural heritage.”

“There may be less time for learning as an adult, but you will always be learning something, whether you realize it or not.”

Thanks again to our devoted parent network for lending their time and wisdom, and in the end great power to this experience. I look forward to seeing you soon at Night of the Notables!

5 thoughts on “It Takes a Village

  1. I am really impressed with what you are doing with this project Bryan. My class, in their own limited way, has started something similar based on your idea (thanks for the info) and have selected some interesting people. I have used the work of your students as examples for my own class and they have selected some interesting people. Jacques Plante, Florence Nightengale, Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King Jr., George Patton. Admitidly not as adventurous as your own students but they are enthusiastic about it nonetheless. Looking forward to seeing what your class has put together at the Night of the Notables.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Paul! I’m glad to hear the resources are having a trickle-down effect (though they’re traveling up the hill) with your class. I’ve seen a few of your Tweets looking for info here and there and have RT’d them, hopefully to some effect. We have some overlap that could be a fruitful mentorship to set up (Kielberger, and Hellen Keller to start), if only through the blogs (check grade nine blogs by Rebecca and Donya respectively on the TALONS blog page to find those two).

    I had conferences today with about half of the class concerning their learning centers and speeches (students are heartily encouraged to avoid the poster-science fair format, and approach their speech “as if you get 3′ to tell the world what you thought about your time here on earth” – a la Sam Phillips’ advice to Johnny Cash in Walk the Line), and was\am quite literally floored with each student’s intention for final products. I won’t spoil it, but Night of the Notables is going to be something else, let me tell you.

  3. Bryan,

    Life sends us what we need, just in the nick of time. Just yesterday I went out on a limb and told my students (sophomore English majors) that they were going to have to find and interview someone outside of China who doesn’t speak or read Chinese. This definitely freaked some of them out, as I knew it would. I’m actually a little nervous about it too. I didn’t really know how to help them, until I read your post and the related one on attaining interviews.

    Thanks so much! I’m going to read more in depth on your projects now. I know I’m gonna find something I need!

  4. Amalia, Glad you found some inspiration, direction and perhaps a lesson to run with (and just in the nick of time, no less!). I’ve found a great deal more success with students obtaining interviews this year than in the past (last few years have seen four or five students get responses; this year success is somewhere near 80% of the class), owing to a lot more preparation in the ways we go about requesting information, much of which I have being trying to chronicle here. My post “Access & Interviews: a Story and Some Tips” covers how to get interviews in the most detail, and there should be more reports of some successes garnered over the weekend (Twitter & the students’ blogs have proven to be worthy assets…) in the coming week. Hope your students are having good experiences in their interviews, Bryan

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