As I was growing up, I had developed a critical eye on what works in an educational setting. My particular observations regarding a powerful learning environment started with when I was a young boy at grade 4. It was when my science teacher asked for a volunteer to bring a “rotten toast” to the school laboratory to demonstrate to the rest of the students in the science class the components of rotten food and the kinds of fungus that grow in it. What I did is I suddenly started linking real life with classroom’s mostly theoretical knowledge. What happened next is that the rotten toast that I brought was actually “too rotten” to be used for class demo. They had to throw it away unfortunately. I did not particularly feel bad; maybe because of the teacher’s attitude. He said, it’s good but the it’s just too rotten–this is what happens when food gets too rotten, you don’t see the real color of food anymore! I think that was more encouraging and interesting than disappointing. I think I learned from this the teacher’s attitude towards students’ interactions makes a lot of difference and is really powerful. Also, bringing real-life to the classroom can be a real motivation to learners across different ages.
Another powerful learning environment was when I was taking my English language entry-courses at my bachelor level at the university. One of the classes had an interesting atmosphere to it. Every time I come to this class I feel it’s full of energy. I think it was because he always attempts to bring whatever we learn to real-life and the key factor is he always asks us to be part of that experience. Once he did a presentation in class about travelling to his home country, Canada, and he even brought his own wife (who was also a teacher) to help him in presenting about the experience to us. So I think that active-engagement atmosphere helped me to learn actively in the class.
A recent powerful experience was when I was out of the classroom actually, it was at an arts club I enrolled in during my MA study in the USA (called the Sands of Time). Basically, it was a free painting day. There was nothing out of the ordinary except that I did not think that I was able to actually draw anything at that moment. The muse was: just draw what usually comes to your mind. There are no rules! I think that was powerful in a way. We always ask about how we can apply the rules to be able to create something, however, I think we instinctively have enough experience in our heads to get us started somewhere. A few moments later, I found out that I was able to draw 3 different paintings–along with the other members around me, who all had different drawings, therefore, different rules to their paintings–I thought that was inspiring and interesting environment to create and learn from that experience.
My amazing drawing here is not my own , but my little brother’s. His creativity led him to use the space he had to draw in a very interestingly-economical and practical way–and this was at home. I think he wouldn’t be able to do this at a painting lesson at school, because the teacher will require an actual drawing note-book and a clean sheet of paper. However, bring at home, with his other sister who was painting with him, he could not get enough white space to draw on, so he actually divided the white space into square little spaces, and the result is very interesting!