Vowing not to make the same mistake I made in India, I have taken up active learning of the German language. Every morning from 8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m., I begin my day at Frankfurt International School/International School of Wiesbaden with a German lesson. My teacher Anne is wonderfully patient with her hard-to-reach student, Dr. Fochtman. As soon as my computer arrives, I’ll supplement these lessons with Rosetta Stone. A combination of a few Hindi words, Latin, some Spanish, and now German has my brain feeling like spaghetti.
Mark Twain wrote in his book, A Tramp Abroad, “A person who has not studied German can form no idea of what a perplexing language it is. Surely there is no other language that is so slip shod and systemless, and so slippery to grasp. One is washed about in it, hither and hither. In the most helpless way; and when at least he thinks he has captured a rule which offers firm ground to take rest on amid the general rage and turmoil of ten parts of speech, he turns the page over and reads, ‘let the pupil make careful note of the following exceptions…'”
As educators, we often forget what it’s like to learn. Sure we are rewiring and learning technology, but for some reason that doesn’t make my brain feel like spaghetti. If I had never seen a computer and turned it on for the first time, the slope would be steep and difficult and much akin to learning a new language. Once again in the role of a student, I wonder how many educators remember and empathize with student frustration, failure, and then eventually, success. As teachers do we remember what it was like to learn? Would it be helpful to require all of us, at points in our careers, to go learn something alien to us that really requires more than “interest,” but rather difficult work? The time would be hard to find, but my experience going back to Duke for an MBA and now learning German sure provides a relevant and poignant reminder of being a student and the value of a good teacher.
It’s an exhilarating time to be an educator. Howard Gardner’s, Five Minds for The Future, paints a picture of the future, or is it today?
• The Disciplinary Mind: the mastery of major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one professional craft.
• The Synthesizing Mind: the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others.
• The Creating Mind: the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions and phenomena.
• The Respectful Mind: awareness of and appreciation for differences among human beings and human groups.
• The Ethical Mind: fulfillment of one’s responsibilities as a worker and as a citizen.
We are blessed in the international school world to have so many caring, competent, and aware teachers.