Do you remember the last field trip you went on? Something about experiential learning sticks with me. My theory is that when you have an experience, all of your senses absorb slices of knowledge. Later, you have more triggers that remind you of what you learned. This learning style has always been more effective for me than simply hearing a lecture, reading a textbook or watching a documentary. In particular, two field trips affect my thoughts and actions to this day.
- Mr. Townley took AP Environmental Science to the South Wake Solid Waste Landfill. Our school bus putt-putted to the top of trash mountain. A landfill manager was our guide. We listened to her lecture while we breathed in stink and watched gulls celebrate their feast. We talked about emissions, run-off, compost, plastic, waste-stacking, feasibility; soon I had a headache from the smell. Daily, I still think about waste management. At times, I carry so much guilt for my impact. I find relief in eco-minded brands, but my actions feel ineffective.
- Ms. Young took Law and Justice to the Wake County Detention Center. Our tour took us through every room of the booking process. We passed padded cells with steel doors. We rushed to the wall as officers ran down the hall, chasing an alarm. Our tour guide pointed to the cots on the floor, noting the overpopulation. He joked about three hot and a cot, informing us that lunch is actually cold cuts. That semester, Ms. Young started conversations that planted a curiosity in me. Over the years that curiosity grew to become a profound disgust for the systemic mass incarceration in our nation.
These educators went beyond the call to make learning tangible. I am thankful to them, and many others from my 12 years of public school. I am inspired by the teachers striking across the nation for their unmet needs. However, the response from our department of education has been disappointing. Public schools deserve more, not less. Teachers change lives.