On Monday January 17, 2011, I accompanied Henry and Shay to WBEZ’s headquarters at Navy Pier. The weather was awful and each of them commuted at least 90 minutes on public transportation to arrive. Once present, Robin Amer (WBEZ Multimedia Producer), coached them through the process of conversing “on the radio.” Periodically, she would interject, suggest a question or ask for more clarification in their answers. As I sat there listening to Shay and Henry, a smile was permanently affixed to my face and I realized that I was rediscovering HOW LEARNING HAPPENS. I’ll touch on just a few key elements:
First, there was internal motivation. Shay and Henry did not receive a grade for their effort. They did not get extra credit. They won’t receive favorable treatment if the slack off tomorrow just because they showed up last Monday. They showed up because they wanted to.
Second, there was commitment. We were off school for MLK Jr Day, and though we recommend that students participate in the National Day of Service, it is far more common that teenagers veg-out on their days off.
Third, there was curiosity. They were anxious and eager to be in the radio station, to be recorded — they were terrified of being on air, live — to ask each other questions and learn, to talk into excessively large microphones.
Fourth, there was spontaneity. The conversation was not pre-scripted. They each showed up with questions they wanted to ask one another. Over the course of 45 minutes, their questions and answers, awkward at first, forced by circumstance, turned into a flowing conversation. They followed up on one another’s points, probing further, wondering why.
Fifth, there was respect. Neither Shay nor Henry sought to convince the other of her/his position. Rather, they appreciated the difference and sought to understand.
They finished, and thanked each other. We went to the food-court to grab a bite, and as we sat there chatting, two things were clear: 1, they know and like each other better; 2, learning happens organically. Sadly, this conversation didn’t make their food choices any healthier — that happens in our Gastronomics course.
And my job in the learning process was very simple — create the conditions for this opportunity to become a possibility (GCE field experience and partnerships) and then to get out of the way!
At least on Monday 1.17.2011, that is how learning happened. And it was beautiful. Listen and you’ll hear for yourself.