On the Value of Your Own High School Learning

Clay Burrell has started an open thread on what we learned in high school and since we were in school at about the same time [Grad ’77], I’m following the thread.

English: I remember the opening lines of Julius Caesar …

Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home:
Is this a holiday? what! know you not,
Being mechanical, you ought not walk
Upon a labouring day without the sign
Of your profession? Speak, what trade art thou?

… but I was more interested in reading science fiction, such as Asimov, Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clark.

Math: Even though I took all the Math courses that were available I remember very little.

Science: I took Chemistry and remember very little but I do know that Force = Mass times Acceleration, from Physics.

I didn’t take Art, which was a big mistake that I still regret. My five years of French did not prepare me for university, scoring straight zeros on the public service French test when I arrived at military college.  I also did not have a clue on how to study effectively, as high school was a breeze for me, so I came very close to failing my first year of university.

The best thing about high school was that I had time for extra-curricular activities such as student council, Reach for the Top;  cadets; cross-country running and track. Those activities I remember quite well and I learned a lot from my coach and others outside the school.

I guess that my high school experience was similar to The 5 Minute University.

3 Responses to “On the Value of Your Own High School Learning”

  1. Jennifer Nicol

    What remains vivid for me are those subjects taught by teachers who loved their stuff. They were better at communicating the broad strokes of the subject matter; other teachers gave us the details but couldn’t help us find the big picture or the personal connection with a subject. (It does make you question all the effort that goes into curriculum design, if it all comes down to the skill of the teacher).

    The broad strokes remain somewhat sort of intact, even though the details are long gone from mind. Sometimes all that remains is a kind of mental placeholder… as if to say, “I don’t remember how to (fill in the blank) but I know that knowledge exists and I can find it if I need it.”

    And sometimes there’s not even that. Despite not-bad marks in all the senior maths, I have NO idea what it all meant.

  2. Harold

    In spite of our industrial system, with standardized testing, established curriculum and teachers colleges, it’s still a cottage industry. Each teacher, alone in a classroom, with almost no contact with the rest of the school, community or world during that 50 minute period. One thing I’ve noticed about the teachers here is that those with some life experience before going into teaching make for more passionate and grounded teachers.

    Great to have you back in the conversation, Jennifer.

  3. Dave Ferguson

    I remember quite a bit, some of it quite obscure (e.g., poetry by Thomas Merton). And I remember distinctive teachers, most of them good: Brother André, who’d be pleased that I can speak some French; the English teacher who coached me to win a speech contest; the shambling, dull-looking history teacher who related early 20th century events to the then-current world.

    Most of them had been teachers all their lives, but brought zeal and a sense that the subject mattered.

    Harold, your comment above made me pause and think. You’re right about the cottage industry (I have taught in three states, though long before the No Child Left Behind act). My grad-school project was field-testing self-student programs for teachers, most of whom were eager to at least try ways to improve their effectiveness in the classroom.

    The challenges they face today — technological, institutional, and chronological (as in, only so many hours in their day) — confound me.


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