Returning fellows have been asked to post our reflections on our GK12 experience. I, like many, have been changed profoundly by this fellowship, and I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for several months. I tried to come up with something both profound and detailed about pedagogy and education and the path forward, but formality is not my strong suit. Instead of writing my treatise, I just keep looking back to the same moment.
There I was. Hungry. Waiting impatiently… for pizza. I was, I think, in middle school (we called it “junior high” way back then). Or it might have been grade school, I’m not very good with years. Anyway, the point is that I was HUNGRY. I was sitting in my living room pretending to practice my piano, waiting.
The doorbell rang, my mom answered the door, and this guy came in with a ball cap and my dinner. I think now that he was in college, but of course I didn’t really know what that meant at the time. I just wanted the pizza. He pointed to the piano, I said I was practicing, and then, something amazing happened.
He walked over to the piano and started playing this crazy jazz music that I had never heard before. He played for a few seconds, then scribbled some notes on a book that I had out, then played them again. He said, you can do this, or this, or this, or if you don’t like any of those, just try your own. I was dumbfounded. He smiled, and took the money for the pizza, and was gone.
Now, to be honest, I never really liked the piano. I don’t play now. I don’t read music, and I wasn’t inspired to write my first symphony. But I will tell you this, after all these years, I still remember those notes, and I still remember how excited he was to show them to me. After spending some time in middle school earth science classrooms (and a fair amount of time in classrooms in general), I think this guy was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. It turns out that the single most important thing a teacher can do for me is to fundamentally understand and joyfully share knowledge, then let me play with it.
Is this an earth shattering paradigm? Can you hear the choir singing as you read this?
Well, maybe not. But for me, this was really important to realize. I’m always working on the science, and the enthusiasm comes naturally for me, but the next step is where I hope this fellowship has really helped me. I’m trying to learn how to pick just the right material to share what I want to share in the time I have to share it …
so that I can be the jazzy pizza guy, but with science.