By Kristina K. Sullivan
“Knowledge of the nearest things should be acquired first, then that of those farther and farther off.” — Comenius, 17th C. educator (Dubel and Sobel, 2008)
On the day of my twenty first birthday, I arrived in the small Appalachian town of Whitesburg, Kentucky (population 2,000) on a university field study. Though not yet a credentialed teacher, I was assigned the position of reading specialist for a small group of unmotivated yet adequately intelligent 5th-7th grade students at Cowan School, about five miles off the main highway.
It took very little time to discover that the traditional methods of schooling were not going to work, the problem exacerbated by my status as a California “outsider”. At that idealistic age despair was not a consideration; I had no choice but to embrace our differences. Rather than following a rote lesson plan, it seemed more promising to ask them questions about themselves.