Making Meaning: A Universal Experience

November 14, 2008 at 10:51 am 3 comments

posted by Beth Norford ’89, consultant and former School for Children teacher

beth

Teaching in Lucknow, India*

I got back to the U.S. last week after five months in South Asia: India, Nepal and Pakistan. I’m beginning work as a freelance educational consultant and my mission was to visit schools and foundations; to talk with parents, teachers and students; to assess (at least superficially) the state of education on the subcontinent; and to figure out how I might play a role there. I started a blog to document my experiences and to engage with others who share an interest in progressive education in South Asia. My initial entry was a short excerpt from a lecture I presented in September at Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan – a very brief first attempt to introduce my own beliefs about pedagogy…

“Since I am, after all, an educator, I’d like to begin by asking you a question – the sort of question that I like best: one that has no single ‘correct’ answer, the kind with many correct answers, the type that (hopefully) causes people to really think.

The question is this: What is the purpose of education? Why should we teach? Why should we learn?

The answers are many:
– We teach so that students will achieve high marks on their examinations.
– We teach so that students can be admitted to colleges and universities.
– We teach to raise the level of literacy among the population.
– We teach to offer students a better lot in life. Better health, better jobs, a better standard of living.
– We teach to offer students exposure to the history and culture of their country.

This morning I will take the liberty of talking about MY favorite answer to this question. Not the ‘correct’ answer remember, but the answer that makes me excited about my own work as an educator, that keeps me going, that gets me up in the mornings. I believe that the purpose of education is the creation of meaning. The creation of meaning. Children are trying to make meaning out of the complex and crazy world into which they are born, a world of relationships, of symbols, of patterns and randomness, a world of things beyond the comprehension of their young minds. They need all of this to mean something, to make sense. They need the tools to create this meaning for themselves. This is why they learn. And this is why I teach – to offer children the tools they will need for this most important life work.”

There is much more to come and I can’t wait to begin making contact with others who are interested in progressive education in the U.S., in South Asia, and throughout the world. Please be in touch.

* The photo is from the city of Lucknow, about 500 kilometers east of  Delhi.  I was working with students at a school called the Acharya  Narendra Deva Academy, which provides free schooling to children from working-class families who can’t afford adequate education for their kids.

Beth is a Bank Street graduate and former School for Children teacher now beginning to freelance as an educational consultant. Most of her current work is concentrated in South Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan) and she has begun a blog, “Educational Alternatives Worldwide” (with a link from our sidebar), to document her recent professional experiences. She’d really appreciate any and all comments, suggestions, questions, and feedback from the Bank Street community.

Please join the conversation by posting your comment below.

Entry filed under: constructivism, international education.

The Bank Street College Alumni Association Blog What is the Role of Bank Street in a New Era?

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Betsy  |  November 20, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I am really curious about how you go about giving students tools to create meaning. I’m finding out so much about how different cultures use and create different patterns of thinking and learning
    — I’d recommend Nesbitt’s The Geography of Thought, for instance — but it does make it difficult to figure out an approach that challenges but doesn’t bore or overwhelm the student. Perhaps I will find more on your own blog! Hope to join the conversation.

  • 2. Kathy  |  March 8, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Beth,
    This is really interesting. I’d love to read more. Can you send me a link to your future posts? Thanks!

  • 3. Maureen  |  December 5, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I sincerely hope to communicate with you! I am a doctoral candidate struggling with finding questions to evaluate meaning-making in terms of educational experiences. I also have a strong interest in both international and urban education, and would love to communicate more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


An Online Conversation

Join the conversation among Bank Street College alumni blogging on education policy, practice, and point of view. Explore issues, ask questions, share what's actually happening in our classrooms, schools, museums, and communities. To submit a post, please send it to: alumni@bankstreet.edu.

Your Voice

Post your own opinions about teaching, learning, children, politics, special education, school reform, play, the standards movement, student teaching, museum education, leadership, block building, morning meeting, curriculum mapping, collaboration, isolation, benchmarks, bilingual classrooms, social-emotional development, the arts...right here on The Bank Street Blog!

To leave a comment on a posting, please click on the "comment" link beside the posting date. Comments will be reviewed before they appear.

Archives

Feeds

Some of Our Past Bloggers

Alisa Algava ‘08, leader of a small Hudson Valley progressive school
Gloria Arenson ’58, psychotherapist
Bill Ayers ‘84, UIC professor, Chicago
Fred Baumgarten ‘84, writer/musician/naturalist/father
Keith Berman '03, founder/president of Options for College and Bank Street’s LinkedIn moderator
David Bowles ’08 (SFC ’93), museum educator at the Rubin Museum of Art
Elena Canaras ‘07, Special Education teacher, Hawaii
Virginia Casper, Bank Street faculty member
Jim Clay ‘88, director of a Washington DC Quaker preschool
Mary DeCamp Cotterall ‘87, Reading Specialist, Michigan
Judy Coven ’77, retired public school teacher and former Antioch University faculty member
Leslie Day '93, adjunct instructor at Bank Street and author of Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City
Mary Louise (Molly) Day ‘76, Lab School teacher, Chicago
Liezel de La Isla ‘99, Prague International School teacher
Diane Trister Dodge '70, founder and president of Teaching Strategies, Inc.
Meghan Dunn ’08, 3rd grade teacher, Brooklyn
Steven Evangelista ’01, co-director Harlem Link Charter School, NYC
Janine Fetters ‘02, Senior Associate of Parent Engagement at NACCRRA
Dena Florczyk '88, middle school teacher and founder/director of The Nigerian School Project
Hollee Freeman '94, writes about parenting issues for the alumni blog and was featured on BSCAA's April 2012 Career Panel
Ellen Galinsky '70, is President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
Joanne Ruvolo Gannett ‘84, Columbia College art history professor, Chicago
Joan Goldstein ‘67, sociologist and educator
Margot Hammond, Director of the Center for Early Childhood Professionals
Carol Hillman ‘67, early childhood educator, author, and Long Trip co-leader
Pam Jones ‘05, Bank Street advisor and instructor
Lee Klinger Lesser ‘87, trainer for the Parent Services Project
Preminda Langer ‘97, teacher trainer
Claire Milam ’97, life coach, Austin, Texas
Rabin Nickens ‘03, Speaker, Trainer and Educational Consultant
Beth Norford ‘89, consultant and former School for Children teacher
Susy Ogden ‘97
Marion Palm ‘95, Leadership in the Arts alum, writing tutor, poet and singer
Jessica Poser, assistant professor of art education at UIC, Chicago
Jesse Pugh '76, BSCAA President
Meg Rauen ‘06, former Chicago elementary school teacher, NY
Linda Reing, Bank Street Director of Alumni Relations
Rosalind Rothman '62, retired NYC teacher and guidance counselor
Kyla Ryman '92/'97, educational coach and consultant
Ariel Sacks ‘06, middle school teacher, Brooklyn, NY
Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ‘81, psychotherapist and author
Barbara Silver ‘80, literacy consultant and former NYC first grade teacher
Andrea Penny Spencer, former Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Bank Street
Debbie Stone ‘84, former teacher/co-director of High Valley School
Rachel Theilheimer ‘74, chair of teacher education at BMCC/CUNY
Theodore Timpson ’05, founder/president of Young Spirit Foundation
Eleanor Traubman '95, is Editor in Chief of Creative Times, a blog which promotes NYC's performing, visual and literary arts
Allison Warren '08, new mom, recent grad, and early childhood teacher
Max Weinberg ‘03, Francis Parker School teacher, Chicago
Ted Wells ‘07, 4th grade teacher at The Park School, Brookline, MA
Tracy Wiessbrod ’03, kindergarten teacher and stay-at-home mom

%d bloggers like this: