The Foundations of my Exploration
The inaugural post in a collection of stories and musings amidst a global investigation of education.
Day 8. Copenhagen, Denmark.
The night before I left for a year-long exploration of learning around the world, I tossed my empty carry-on on the bedroom floor, put on my Afrobeat playlist, and just started dancing. I could not stop smiling. Are you kidding me? I get unrestricted freedom to travel the world and explore my life’s greatest passions and curiosities?
What are people and communities like around the world? Why are they that way? What are their stories? What experiences shaped them? What people? What do they value? What do they like to do? What are their goals? What are their purposes in life?
These sorts of questions have long fascinated me. When I was a kid growing up in the most diverse place in the world, I liked to people watch and wonder about their life. I yearned for empathy. Shortly thereafter this curiosity turned into an aspiration to help people in the greatest way possible. I didn’t know how I would affect this change, but I knew I wanted to. Then in adolescence I began questioning everything. The works of Emerson and Thoreau sparked a desire to reimagine the status quos of our society.
As I say these things with hindsight, it makes it seem like I had my shit together — but I didn’t. These were ideals that hovered over me, but I had no idea how I wanted to realize them. I wasn’t concerned with this uncertainty at the time as I assumed college was the place to figure things out. After all, I was a “good student” by traditional measures in an education system singularly focused on “college readiness.” But after my freshman year, I didn’t have it figured out.
As the deadline to declare a concentration loomed closer, I grew increasingly frustrated. Then I asked myself a question that would change everything for me, why? Why after 20-years of life could I not identify a concrete purpose that I wanted to develop? Why did I go to school for so much of my life if I could not answer this question?
Exploring this inquiry ultimately led to an unmistakable passion for education and desire to redesign it to truly allow kids to flourish. Fostering the development of purposeful, skillful, knowledgeable, and self-directed learners is how I will help people and this world in the greatest way possible. This is my purpose. This is why I am diving head first into learning environments around the world.
The broad list of life questions I posed earlier remain foundational to my curiosity, but education gives me the needed structure to grasp them — or at least the best chance to. Perhaps the greatest challenge I will face during this journey is being able to synthesize my experiences given their extreme substance and novelty. There have been moments this week where I am completely drained and overwhelmed by a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions. But I’ve found that releasing that build up through written and oral expression helps, especially when relating it back to my overarching inquiry.
So what exactly is that inquiry? I’m interested in the development and self-understanding of personal identity, as well as in the nature and influence of culture, pedagogy, and curriculum. I will explore this in traditional and progressive learning environments to understand the realities and best practices in education.
At the broadest level exists my fascination with familial and school cultures. This refers to the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules of student support systems. Potential questions within this realm may include: What do families and schools value and emphasize? What do they believe the purpose of education is? How do they make decisions? What is the energy like? What is the nature of collaboration? Can people openly express their thoughts and feelings without repercussions? Are failures seen as opportunities to learn?
At the next and more concrete level exists school pedagogy and curriculum. This explores the theory and practice of teaching and learning, as well as the content being conveyed. Potential questions may include: What is the nature of the student-teacher relationship? Does the teacher ask questions or impart knowledge? Does the student have agency in the learning process? Is knowledge prioritized at the cost of skill and character development? What subjects are taught, if at all, and how are they organized?
At the individual and student-focused level I’m interested in the nature and formation of personal identity. This refers to the values, goals, characteristics, and influences that makeup and shape a student’s being. Potential questions may include: What are a student’s core values? What are their character strengths? What experiences were transformational in shaping their identity? What people have been most influential? How do they spend their time? What are their goals? What is their purpose?
Student’s will gauge these parts of their life through digestible written and oral questionnaires that I’ve created. When possible, I’ll also cross-reference their answers and assess their ability to know thyself through daily observation, but accurately understanding reality vs. perception when it comes to personal identity may be impossible — still, it is fascinating nonetheless.
Not only did this week shed incredible light on these questions and interests, but it gave insight into best practices. Denmark is internationally renowned for its education system and so far its live up to the hype. I met with the founder of EdTech Denmark — a global leader in facilitating education innovation — as well as spent three days at the incredibly progressive and inspiring Den Grønne Friskole (“The Green School )— a school focused on sustainability that’s scrapped subjects for projects, and which has fostered the most academically and emotionally intelligent 12-year-olds I’ve ever met.
Unfortunately, given the density of this post and the toll it took just to synthesize my project’s foundations, you’re going to have to wait until next time to hear about the greatest emotional rollercoaster of a week I’ve ever experienced.
Peace & Love,
P.S. Follow me on instagram @joepucci where I’ve been posting photos and short stories about the journey thus far.