Education Without Walls


I've pondered the word authenticity lately. How can we be authentic? How can we have truly authentic relationships? How can we create authentic experiences and lessons?Through my wonderments, I've found that the closest thing that we can come to authenticity is when we aren't trying. When we have intentions and expectations, we have already spent too much time thinking about our actions and words. We have manipulated our experiences and encounters before they happen. When you remove your intent, and you just are, that is when you experience authenticity.

Traveling is authentic. Stepping outside your daily comfortability, regardless of how planned you are, creates a vulnerability for you to learn. You encounter new people, face language barriers, and stumble with exchanged currency. This can be a trying moment, because you need to be okay with being uncomfortable. I've come to believe that this feeling of uncertainty is a reason why we travel. We want to feel outside of ourselves because we can realize how alive we are. Embrace those moments when you're unsure and take it as an authentic learning experience.

Traveling encourages multiple opportunities for learning in a range of content. History, geography, communications, interpersonal relationships, critical thinking, and strategizing/planning. People thrive on travel because of the learning, because of the authentic experience that is driven by curiosity.

Shelby sent me an article, "Why Go To School" by Steve Wolk. This challenged my thinking in regards to my authenticity in the classroom. I question what my students are doing. Am I teaching them to think for themselves and follow their curiosity? Or am I throwing worksheets at them hoping to obtain knowledge that won't truly be instilled. The {John Dewey} quote referenced in the article struck me.

"What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history,

to win the ability to read and write,

if in the process the individual loses his soul."

What a heart breaking thought to think that students come to school every day and lose their curiosity because of the mundane tasks that are "school." We do not travel to lose our souls, we do not pick up novels and reference materials to lose our interest in a topic, so why would we drive our students to disengage with learning? 


How do we maintain authenticity, but drive our students to want to learn? Remember: When you lose the intentions and expectations, authenticity happens. As teachers, we need to provide authentic opportunities to our students. It is not easy to let go of our expectations, mind you- but I think we would be astonished by just how far our students would go if we gave it a try. We should be real with them, and get them to engage in their learning through curiosity and exploration. Let go of the monotony that has become institutional education. Because just as adults crave the authenticity through travel, our students can crave the authenticity of learning in the classroom. We just need to educate without walls, break down comfortable barriers, and allow students to feel alive in new experiences.