I had an interesting weekend last week and it’s taken me a few days to process everything. It’s not that I’m a slow processor, rather, there was a lot to process.
I went to Eugene, Oregon, with Dr. Valerie Maxwell, Founder of the Foundation for Learning Development (FLD), The ADDSOI Center, The Learning Gym, and daughter of the Founder of SOI Systems. If you don’t know Dr. Maxwell, you should. She travels the world working with families of LD children and helping school systems incorporate better learning disabilities efficiencies. I serve on the board of the FLD with her and she’s worked with my kids for more than a decade, so I’ve had quite a bit of time to learn from her myself.
One of the main goals of the trip to Eugene was to spend time with Dr. Robert Meeker of SOI Systems, to gain a better understanding of the SOI Certified Learning program. Over the course of the four days, we had six to eight meetings about education and the learning process in school. I lost track of the exact count, as my head was filled not only with the content, but the possibilities of the impact SOI Certified Learning could have on education. Like I said, there was a lot to process. And I promise to expand on the details of Certified Learning over time. I liken it to a bridge that helps teachers and students travel from struggles to success in school.
While the subject of our meetings was the main goal, I came away with much more. In the mornings, we discussed Kindergarten through Grade 2 and where the early years fit into education, not only with learning disabled children, but with ALL children, the struggles they have learning, and the difficulties teachers have finding successful methods for educating them.
The mid-afternoons were spent, either in Philanthropic meetings in Eugene, or poking around Eugene and the University of Oregon campus. My new state motto is: Oregon – It’s All About the Food! Anyway, the time spent in Eugene and around campus put me in touch with the higher learning side of education, specifically colleges and universities.
I have a soft spot for college, and being in that environment again was an amazing flashback to my own days in school. The energy and passion of the college students was rejuvenating and filled me with a sense of optimism I haven’t felt in years. Next time you get bummed out about the state of economy, the infighting and childishness of Congress, or the lack of jobs, spend a day at a university. The atmosphere is almost immune to the whole shabang.
Don’t tell today’s college students there aren’t any jobs. At least not in Eugene, Oregon. They’ll work on farms, at farmer’s markets, grow their own produce, and do anything they can to sustain a living and earn enough for a week or two exploring the Yucatan Peninsula when not in school. Truly inspiring.
The flight up to Eugene provided some foreshadowing of the days to come. Our seatmate, Laura, just happened to be a Junior at the University on her way to Fall classes. She heard us talking about smartboards in school and how they can be used for immediate polling of data, allowing teachers to track the effectiveness of their lectures. She actually schooled “us” on how they function based on her use of them in college classes. She also provided a glimpse into the optimistic world of today’s college student that I would discover over the next few days.
Late afternoons were spent back at SOI Headquarters absorbing more lessons with Dr. Meeker, and continued into the evening during dinner prepared from fresh ingredients grown right on the grounds. I told you, Oregon is all about the food.
I’m not sure that my brain has assembled a complete takeaway of the trip yet. That could take weeks of pouring over notes and refining my analysis. My expectations for the trip were wide open, even though I knew we’d be examining the Certified Learning program, which is specifically targeted to kids in the K – 2 age range.
Kindergarten is a critical age for schoolchildren, and I now understand that better than before the trip. My anecdotal experience with educating all students had me sitting at grade 3 as the pivot point. And it still is. But Dr. Meeker, and some data from No Child Left Behind, have taught me that for kids to reach the golden years of college, we need to address the critical years of K through 2. The solutions are available. We just need to teach the schools and educators about them. More to come…