Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Coloring Outside the Lines

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Been reading a novel where they kept using the expression “coloring outside the lines” during the same time we’re talking about learning outside institutions in #moocmooc

I also yday co-facilitated two workshops for faculty at work: one on alternative assessments (esp authentic/sustainable ones – here is n old version of it) and one on assessments that help us listen to our students more carefully

Been thinking also of how i want to handle my daughter’s learning outside of school because i am almost sure i won’t like school

And this coloring outside the lines thing struck me. In a school entry assessment they ask kids to color something in and i am pretty sure they are checking for fine motor skills of coloring inside the lines

I remembered something my mom noticed about my child. She said she started coloring inside the lines, then said “ok, i’m now done with that” and proceeded to color outside in broad strokes

What a moment. The lines provide structure and school tries to control the child within it. The key is to make sure that even though my child can see the lines, she knows she is free to color outside them occasionally

It is how i teach within institutions – i see the lines, am aware of them, but most of the time find ways to color outside them. And sometimes i spill over outside the paper altogether, because the paper is a limitation.

Kids have it right when they want to color on the walls and floors, when they want to sometimes read from left to right or right to left (this is particularly funny in the bilingual context of my daughter but she cannot read Arabic yet so she doesn’t realize it – she actually thinks all Arabic text is Quran which is adorable; also shows how little Arabic text lies around the house – need to fix that?)

One more thing: can i possibly imagine how i want to nurture my daughter’s learning without discovering first what interests her and makes her tick? We’ll probably come to that next week in #moocmooc as we discuss Papert

All i know now is she loves music and dancing and it’s something we love doing together. She learns new words from songs and loves books that have songs in them. I’m keeping an eye out for other entry points but this is a pretty big one already

Sooo since i don’t think we are getting rid of institutions any time soon, nor am i able to imagine it, i’m going with coloring outside the lines. Be aware there are lines and people expect you to stay within them. But be comfortable and confident crossing them when it feels right. Know that beyond the lines there is paper and have judgment to know when you can go beyond the paper too. Sounds like a plan!

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