Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Where Learning Happens

I was with three friends from another country, we'll call them Person A, Person B, and Person C. Person A has been in this country the longest, and has interacted and dealt with the most born and raised Americans. An American was present, and having a short conversation with Person A. Person B and C (and myself) listened. Person A was incredulous about something the American said, and didn't know whether or not to believe him. "Are you fucking with me or are you for real?" he said. The conversation concluded and the American left.

Person B and Person C said they didn't understand what that meant (Are you fucking with me), so Person A went on to explain at length, using both English and their native language when, why, and how to say "Don't fuck with me."

I was dying laughing. "What?" Person B protested "He is teaching us."

"I know," I said "Just don't use that one at work."

But he was teaching them. They were learning grammar, conjugation, situational appropriate language, culture, etc. It was an amazing thing to see unfolding. This is how some of the most productive learning happens: a simple "I don't understand," the desire to know, and the exchange of information and knowledge in a community of peers.

I'm not saying that the classroom environment is invalid. I think it is vital. But I also think a lot of learning happens out of the classroom, and I also think we can utilize this type of learning in the classroom by putting more power in the hands of the students to teach each other, and even the so-called "teacher". I know I learn a lot from my students....

Just a thought.

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