Monday, October 13, 2014

The Classroomless Class

This week TIME magazine featured the Paperless Classroom. Students equipped with ipads don't need paper to write, or books to read. A click and a stylus makes learning magic. As much as I appreciate the trees that will be saved from this innovation, it is an innovation barking up the wrong tree. Paperless is not the answer. What we need is a Classroomless Class.

I recently visited a  progressive elementary school. Every 20 minutes the children had another assignment. I left there thinking if I had to spend 7 hours a day following the rules and confined to schedules like that I'd run away from home. What was the difference between the regiment the students were experiencing and Orange is the New Black? That confining feeling, someone watching your every move, trying to sneak a chat with a friend and making sure to follow orders  or be punished made me want to pack a bag and run!

I am recommending we forbid learning within the walls of the classroom. No more children staring at cinder block walls. Hard cold chairs in rows even set up in circles are to be banned. Pealing posters and florescent lighting x'd out. The schedule and the rules of every 20 minutes, listen and now do this activity sheet quarantined.

In my work in NY we've created learning to spur teacher skill and imagination. Most successful experiences  have been:
1. In a shopping mall-what does Jewish tradition say about buying?
2. In a restaurant-Torah learning and values go hand in hand with a meal.
3. At the NYC High line-blessings said and understood when seeing true wonder.
4. At the art museum-where color and text and soul enliven
5. In homes-where we got to know each others stories

We could have done anyone of these lessons  in a classroom. Dance, music and drawing could have trumped the pen and pencil fill out the worksheet activity. But no amount of dance or story telling, no amount of apps and programs could have made the lessons more memorable.

 Jewish learning that is memorable and  goes to real life is not for a classroom--as Dr. Jeff Kress says, "Judaism is not a subject to be learned ABOUT." Living Jewish resulting from learning Jewish takes place in mall, the restaurant, the garden path and the museum..when we wake, when we walk and when go to bed at night. I have this idea on very high authority.

What would it take for us to foster Jewish learning for children and their families that take place where they are, not where the cinder block is?

 I asked my students at HUC while sitting on the roof  smelling limes to awaken the soul (Jewish teaching says smell is for the soul-whereas food is for the body). I asked them to write questions they have been pondering since the holidays. They said things like: How can I be authentic while living up to people's expectations; how do I show love when I'm stressed by my days?

These are the kinds of questions our learners hold. And they can't be addressed within
cinderblock walls if we want to penetrate the amount of "stuff" that comes to learners.

The Classroomless Class speaks to the real life questions people are wondering about-and in the spaces that amplify not confine learning by roster and cinder block.

What are the tools of The Classroomless Class?
*Really knowing the learner..their interests and needs
*Family desire
*Apps at the ready
*Personal follow up beyond what an ipad can do
*A chevra-no kid can believe she is an island
*Some mentoring

 Could you imagine The Classroomless Class?

The Classroomless Class could be a tree that grows in Brooklyn...
Manhattan, Westchester, Long Island and wherever our learners walk.