Lessons Learned in Philadelphia Lesson 3

April 22-25, 2016

Without Reference Points

A few years ago, our family went to Ellis Island.  We listened to a 15 minute long speech, watched a movie about history of the Island, and walked through a few (not all)  halls.  Yes, the visit was probably a much shorter than the average one, but nonetheless it was both pleasant and instructive.

Before the trip, Robert read a book from True Books series about Ellis Island.  The book had many pictures.  We also found some images on internet. It helped that my husband and I were there before so despite many  changes we knew what to expect. Thus we were able to tell Robert in a few, short sentences what he might see there.  So when Robert was walking through the Museum, he might have felt as if he entered the illustration he had seen a few days before.  He might or might not recognize the spaces, but they were not entirely alien to him.  I believe that he was not feeling lost because he had acquired a few reference points that helped him to feel in, at least partial, control of the space and activities.

Sadly, we didn’t prepare Robert for a trip to Philadelphia.  Neither my husband nor I have visited this city in the past.  Although we knew vaguely the history, we couldn’t connect places – buildings and streets  with people and events. I had not read with Robert two other True Books – one about Constitution and one about Declaration of Independence.   We had them, but we didn’t read them before the trip. And thus we arrived without any reference points that we could offer  Robert  to help him avoid the feelings of unpredictability and uncertainty.  We didn’t tell Robert what to expect because we didn’t know that either.

Robert knew only two things –  he would sleep in a hotel and  he would see Liberty Bell.

It is true that during most of our stay in the city, Robert was preoccupied with the car.  He didn’t see where the car was parked, and thus became anxious.  I wonder, however, if this feeling of anxiety would lessen had Robert knew what to expect and what was expected of him. If he had a few reference points…

Are the abilities to recognize reference points and to use them to make more advanced connections the true goal of all the teaching and the essence of all the learning?  

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