Facts Are Not Enough
The importance of merging classroom philosophy and world reality.
Crystal Barrick, Emily Climer, and Liz Meier all work for Student Achievement Partners (SAP), an organization that has played a leading role in development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). They landed their jobs straight out of college, jobs that emerged from their work in class and in the field.
The three discovered the Common Core Standards in an education reform class at Bennington. The course was designed to expose students to education reform efforts and have them propose their own viable, evidence-based solution that would transform education. “It was a challenge that pushed us to work on an entirely different level,” Emily says. And an ideal set up for Field Work Term.
In class we would generate lofty ideas, but then we’d go into the field and discover tensions and challenges involved in the work that none of us had anticipated in class
While Crystal, Emily, and Liz took the class together, each explored different FWT opportunities to tease out central questions and provide opportunities to transition their classroom insights into the real world. But something happened to all of them. Field Work Term became an unexpected reality check.
“In class we would generate lofty ideas, but then we’d go into the field and discover tensions and challenges involved in the work that none of us had anticipated in class,” Emily says. “One of the most challenging aspects of FWT was discovering that although we had the facts and the evidence to support our ideas and positions, there were complex tensions and challenges in real work environments that were not at all evidence based. I really began to understand the way that the world works,” she explains. As challenging as their yearlong education reform class was, it was the combination of actual experience and class work that “forced us to test the full bounds of our intellectual capacities,” says Crystal.
While in class they were learning how to construct solutions, in the field they were learning how and where to spend their time, how to hone natural skills to problem solve on the fly, and how to more effectively make a case for solutions. “It’s one thing to know something,” Crystal says, “but it is another thing to know how to actually get work worth doing done.”
Field Work Term helped all three identify skills they needed to develop in order to progress their work. When Emily realized that she needed to know more about the effective communication of data to pursue evidence-based reform efforts, she integrated a “Visualizing Data” course into her plan. When Liz struggled with public speaking and projecting confidence during presentations, she returned to campus to take an acting course, as did Crystal after she found it difficult to communicate on the phone with authority. All of these courses were outside of their comfort zones and areas of interest. “But we really enjoyed them because we knew exactly how the material would apply to what we were passionate about and why it was important.”