It doesn’t matter how much decoding you work on if you never get to enjoy a good book. Recitals make the hours of practice worthwhile. Conjugating verbs in Spanish is a waste of time unless you are going to talk to someone who speaks the language.
“Learning for learning’s sake” makes no sense to me. I love to study and to learn new things, but I always have some “purpose” in mind. I want to make a scarf, or be a better teacher, or renew my awe of God’s creation.
This was perhaps the single hardest part of teaching high school math. Over and over, I had to make something up when my students complained that math was irrelevant to their lives. I gave them the standard line:
Math trains your brain to think logically, systematically. Whatever you do, that’s important. And if you advance far enough in math, you can do some incredibly cool things with it.
Which was all true, but they never believed me, and the curriculum I had to use never allowed me the time to let students use things like factoring in meaningful ways.
Performance – performing something useful or beautiful – is a critical piece of learning, which is why I’ve been so keen on projects. Good projects lead naturally into performance.
Here are the three performances the boys have pulled together in the last month:
1. A Thanksgiving Exhibit. We’ve been studying Plymouth for six months now. A few weeks back, the boys made five really great posters to bring with us when we went away with international students for Thanksgiving. Students to the US are always curious about the holiday, and the exhibit allowed the boys to help our guests orient to the holiday. They sat with the posters and answered questions. Nothing fancy, but it was a meaningful use of their studies.
2. Bees. Among other crop failures, we “harvested” only one teaspoon of honey from our hive last month. Surprisingly, none of us were too disappointed. Our hive is thriving, we’ve learned a ton, and we are poised to bring in a hundred pounds next year. The boys put together a few small posters, brought some of their supplies, put on their beekeeping suits, and hosted and “open hive” at a local honey store. The best part was that they got sixty people to vote on the name for our honey next year. It was a close race, but HI5VE beat out both BURPS & FARTS HONEY and COMB SWEET COMB.
3. The Nutcracker. Ezra started ballet in September. He started Nutcracker rehearsal in October. He had his first performance last week. He was nervous and excited, and the worst dancer out there. But he had worked his tail off. And at points, he stole the show.
Most exciting of all, the exhibitions all sparked more interest. Ezra is practicing harder after his first performance than he did before it. The boys couldn’t stop talking about selling their honey at the store next year. And they decided to save their Thanksgiving posters to use again with new students next year.
Performance isn’t the way to evaluate learning. It’s what motivates it.