Alex is my hairdresser. He attended a New York City public high school in the 80s which had an exceptional program for students interested in the medical field. Teachers leading the program taught high level biology and anatomy courses, and organized field trips to hospitals, research labs, universities.
“We were just in high school, but our teacher took us to the maternity ward of a hospital and told them we were medical students, which in a way was true. We found this woman who was about to give birth, and we asked if we could watch it. She said, ‘Sure.’ I think she was Korean, and I guess in that culture, you don’t scream, and she was very quiet the whole time, even though she was in pain. She actually had to have an episiotomy, which we witnessed. Our teacher had to leave the room, because she was so overwhelmed by the whole experience, and she almost fainted.
“When I got home, I thanked my mother for giving birth to me. I never saw my mother the same way afterwards, and I’ll always be grateful to that Korean woman, and to my teacher, that I had that experience.”
When I started my career as a principal, I had the idea that I needed to be “careful” with field trips and outside learning — that if I was too permissive and teachers didn’t plan well, trips would be “frivolous fun” and “downtime” without learning.
While that could happen, Alex’s story reminded me that powerful learning often takes place outside of the classroom. By taking students outside of the classroom and into their city, we expand their worlds.