Imagine that you’re a child in a beautiful and seemingly endless forest. Imagine that you know nothing of what others call “school”, but you live every day a life of inquiry and discovery. Imagine that each day you wake up eager to explore the forest, the ponds, and all that nature will afford you.
Imagine now that your father reads you a bedtime story about Vikings. You want to know more, much more. Cool hats, wooden boats, spears, flags, hunting, polar bears, whales, and survival in the arctic cold. Wow. How cool is that? You devour all things Viking – you want to read about them, draw them, and make an explorer’s map. You want know when they lived, where, and how? You want to build a boat from the branches of the forest outside your window. Who wouldn’t want to explore every aspect of the world in which they thrived?
Imagine that your Mom fuels your curiosity and lets you play within it. She guides your learning and you pepper the process with energy. You cannot wait to build your tiny boat and set it to sail on the pond beyond the garden.
Now imagine that you go to school and a teacher tells you to sit in row 6, seat 7 and turn to page 158. On that page you lose yourself and all that may inspire you.
When you ask about how boats float and how was it possible that Vikings travelled so far across the sea, you are told to pay attention and that your obsession with boats will lead nowhere. “You cannot make a living building boats,” you are told, “so pay attention to the page. “
You know the rest, sort of.
That child, my nephew, never was told that building boats was a useless endeavor or that his curiosity was infantile.
No, my nephew had my sister as a mother and she did the exact opposite. She padded his curiosity with opportunity: the opportunity to explore Vikings as voraciously as they explored the world. And she let my nephew builds as many tiny boats as he wanted until he learned the laws of buoyancy. Until he learned complex math ratios. He addressed concepts that he would not yet have had access to in his school textbook at age 10. Because kids at that age need to stick to the page and learn to sit in rows and multiply before they can build boats and wooden catapults.
In the end, my nephew never did grow out of his passion for boats or the nautical life and makes remarkably stunning sailboats by hand even today. And these marvelous constructions sail the seas because he mastered the mathematical ratios required to understand buoyancy and wind-powered propulsion.
Meanwhile, the school teacher flipped the page to 159 in order to memorize the names of the world’s seas an prepare for Friday's quiz.
“If you would be a man speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
It hurts to know that so many of our children are lost in schools built upon an artificial paradigm completely out of line with the way children really learn. Deep, profound and lasting learning is sacrificed for shallow child management strategies.
Why Somewhere is so much better than Anywhere – A Tale of Two Football Clubs
Imagine you are on a soccer field in a little town called Anywhere. It is wonderful village with wonderful people of great intentions and kind hearts. They hire good coaches to teach their children in a club they call Anywhere FC. The children go to Anywhere Public Schools where they buy colorful textbooks and take colorless national exams. Those with resources send their children to Anywhere Prep School where they also wear colorful school uniforms.
In Anywhere, good people with kind hearts and good intentions live on one governing paradigm as they raise their children. In both school and on the soccer field this paradigm reigns supreme. Since the parents were taught this way and are good people with good intentions and good hearts, they believe it works quite well.
In Anywhere, learning is a process of dissecting grand, global and universal concepts into tiny pieces. All students must memorize these critically important tiny pieces in order to succeed on not so tiny exams.
“Kids need to learn the basics before they build boats and explore the world,” emphatically states the principal of Anywhere High School. The Parents Association (PA) of Anywhere makes brownies for the bake sale and donates new uniforms to the Anywhere soccer team so they look as good as TheOtherTown F.C.
When good parents with good intentions bring out their lawn chairs and watch training they are so satisfied to see their child follow an organized, blocked practice. They see their children passing, shooting and jumping over little hurdles funded by the PA of the FC.
“Kids need to learn the basics before they play games and explore the world,” says the Technical Director of Anywhere F.C. as he conducts tiny drills so that the players can play not so tiny tournaments and win not so tiny trophies.
All is good at Anywhere FC and Anywhere High School in Anywhere, USA.
Except one detail that only one rebellious coach seems to be screaming within his burdened idealism.
In a voice muffled by the powers that be, is shouting, “It is OK, but is NOT much more than OK. It should be remarkable, excellent and fantastically brilliant. We are educating our children and OK should never be good enough for Anywhere. Never.”
And this one coach is right. Or at least he must be heard.
You see Anywhere perpetuates a paradigm that limits our child’s potential, undermines a natural learning process, and stunts our creative relationship with the world beyond Anywhere.
When you question the assumptions that form your assumptions you either go crazy or you stumble somewhere spectacular and tap into upon something remarkable.
“You are crazy until you’re a genius.” - Johan Cruijff
And when you shift your approach to maximizing the potential of children on and off the field, crazy good things happen. And the funny thing is, it is so mundane and simple that you do not understand how you could have made coaching and teaching in Anywhere so complex.
Here is the reality and the paradigm upon which SomewhereSpecial has constructed its learner-centered programs in school and at their football club.
The Somewhere Special Learning Model
Success in any endeavor is a result of effectively activating a learning process to achieve the outcomes desired. Human beings are natural learners, capable of making meaning and overcoming challenges. The acquisition and application of new skills is a proactive process of inquiry, discovery, execution, and assessment.
INQUIRY: Children are curios. Children are able.
DISCOVERY: Children learn through observation and imitation. Children learn through trial and error.
EXECUTION: Children learn through action. Children seek successful outcomes.
ASSESSMENT: Children continually evaluate decisions made and actions taken. Children learn through reflection and adaptation.
The student athletes at SomewhereSpecial tap into this process and find the energy and focus required to achieve their desired goals. They do not start with dissection. Before they play they do not dissect the grandeur of football into tiny pieces memorized without context. The skills they require, they desire because they start from the whole. They play and as they want to perform better they seek out the skills they need to execute the game successfully. They are constantly alert perceiving, conceiving, deciding, executing and assessing. Every activity they do values the natural learning process and reinforces its power to engage the mind and the heart and most their courageous spirit.
This paradigm shift may seem insignificant, but it is not. It is the very essence of why SomewhereSpecial builds programs of substance and why their children maximize their full potential.
The innovative people of SomehereSpecial know that Robert Frost’s wisdom will guide them from OK to sensationally SPECTACULAR. Right where the parents, coaches and teachers of SomewereSpecial want their children to be.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost