Last week this time I was saying goodbye to dozens of new found friends in Doha, Qatar. I was one of over 600 participants at the first ever TEDxSummit, a conference for organizers of local TEDx events from around the globe. (TEDx events are independently and locally produced conferences patterned after the well-known TED conferences.) During the informal socializing time between the many conference workshops, I asked just about everyone I met the same two questions: â€śwhat was your best learning experienceâ€ť, â€śwhat was your worst learning experience.”
Here in paraphrased form are a few of the many responses I captured. I focus on their â€śbest learning experiencesâ€ť:
1. When I was 7 years old, my brother was teaching me to ride the bicycle. He had been running behind me, supporting the bicycle frame while I struggled to balance the bicycle.Â At one point, I turned back and was surprised to see that he was no longer holding onto the frame. He was a standing far behind me. I felt such exhilaration. I had already learned to ride the bicycle yet for a few moments I was unaware of my new found skill. That moment of surprise I shall treasure, because it reminds me that I may be more capable than I think I am. It reminds me to trust in myself and dare to try new things.Â As told by Petr from Prague.
2.Â The teachers in my high school were typically stern, rigid and formal reflecting the authoritarian approach of my countryâ€™s government at that time. One teacher stood out from the rest. I remember the first time I met him – he sat informally in the front row of the class rather than stand behind the lectern as was typical of teachers. He promoted candid and informal discussion about literature in class as opposed to simply lecturing to us. I respected his boldness in teaching in a way contrary to the other teachers. That he did not seem to like me did not detract from my respect and admiration for him. He was one the very best teachers I had.Â As told by Zoltan from Budapest.
3.Â When I was 8 years old, my primary school teacher challenged us to work in teams to create our own game show on the topic of geography. We had the freedom to create questions related to geography which we could challenge the other students in our class to answer. Because we had the opportunity to create our own questions, we worked extremely hard to learn history and geography from a variety of reference materials. We wanted to stump our opponents.Â So the teacherâ€™s wise approach resulted in us learning history and geography with more enthusiasm and thoroughness and less work for the teacher than if he has simply lectured to us.Â As told by Nuno from Porto, Portugal.
4.Â When I was 16 years old, I participated in a school production of the Romeo and Juliet play. We needed a 13 square meter backdrop for a particular scene. None of the other students dared to attempt painting it. I felt a calling to do paint it. I worked very hard over many evenings to complete it and enjoyed the process thoroughly. I received no grade, no class credit, not even much recognition from my mother for creating the painted backdrop. But I felt very happy and proud of my accomplishment, especially because none of the other students were willing to attempt it. As told by Anastasia from Moscow.
5. Â When I was in 11th grade, my history teacher divided our class into three teams, each tasked with creating a presentation on the culture of Spain, Africa or the Tainos people of the Dominican Republic. The team on which I served was focused on the Tainos people, of which little research had been conducted and even less publicly available information was available. This difficulty invigorated our team to go way beyond the other teams to prepare our presentation. We organized ourselves to visit museums and seek obscure books and materials to learn about the Tainos culture.Â Our resulting presentation was something of which we were very proud. We presented to the entire school. The fact that we had the a daunting challenge, we had the opportunity self-organize, we had the opportunity show the entire school our capabilities, we had minimal interference from our teacher all motivated us to work much harder than usual. As a result, we learned the subject much deeper than we would have otherwise. As told by Laura from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
What patterns do you detect in these anecdotes? What are your own best learning experiences as a child or youth? What do our responses reveal about what motivates us to learn with great enthusiasm and joy?