Thursday, April 17, 2008

Learning is like Hiking in the Grand Canyon

When you are walking down into the Canyon and then having to hike back up, it gives you a lot of time for reflection on many things. Since teaching is my passion, I ultimately turned to reflecting about education. Of course I had to share my reflections with my husband as we hiked to take his mind off the edge of the cliffs, since he is afraid of height. I was amazed at how many children were on the trail and the different attitudes many of them had.

I felt that learning was a lot like hiking in the Canyon because it has its ups and downs. Hiking down into the Canyon was relatively easy, even though there were lots of rocks you had to step over, ice patches you had to carefully step across, and even muddy patches that were pretty mushy. Looking at the awesome views made all those small challenges worth it and encouraged us to keep going in order to see what is around the next corner. Learning should be like a downhill hike where it has it challenges, but is encouraging to students to keep on going to see what is around the next corner. Once you accomplish your goal of reaching your destination, you turn around and hike back up to a new destination. Learning should be the same way. Once you achieve your goal, you should have a new goal to attain. Of course, now that you have learned how to learn, the uphill may be a little more challenging but not impossible.

My husband compared learning to kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is defined as the energy of motion whether it is vertical or horizontal. Just as we hike down the Grand Canyon, we need to hike back up to get to our final destination. He felt that learning involved constant motion and we are not stationary. I liked that comparison too. In fact, I was pretty impressed at this deep thinking considered he was probably consumed by the fear of falling into the bottom of the canyon!

The children that we passed showed many different emotions. Children going downhill expressed excitement and curiosity. They did not seem to have any fear of falling, slipping, or having anything dangerous happening. That is how they should feel about learning. On the way up, there were some children who whined, complained, and had to be threatened to continue. Some parents took plenty of breaks and encouraged their children on the way up while others yelled and threatened their children. These children seemed to enjoy the hike so much more than the child who was miserable. Isn’t that the way it is with learning? Some parents seem to be more encouraging and others use a stronger method. But the amazing thing was that when we saw many of them back at the top, they all seemed thrilled to have made it and all negative feelings were gone. That reminds me how graduation always feels when I’m around the students and their parents. The students have reached their goal and it really doesn’t matter how they were pulled or pushed to get there, the celebration is that they made it.

Now I wonder how I can use this knowledge to be a better teacher. I feel like I should make learning fun, exciting, with some challenges so that when the students have to make the uphill climb, they will have the skills and knowledge to make it. I also feel that if we take our time and are encouraging to our students, they will enjoy the journey of learning so much more. Maybe this will make me a more successful teacher.

1 comment:

Clix said...

I really love this metaphor! Great illustration. :)

But you're right, the tough question is HOW to do it! ;D