Nelson, New Zealand

Yesterday, we drove about four hours from a beautiful little town named Hanmer Springs (many Flickr photos to come) up here to Nelson which sits at the top of the south island. On the way, we stopped to zip line across a gorge, herd some sheep off the road that had gotten through an open fence, and roll some boulders out of the way on a one lane (barely) gravel and dirt (to be generous) mountain pass road that when we finally descended to the bottom turned out to be closed to all vehicles trying to come up the way we had just come down.

Pretty boring day.

What was occupying much of my brain power when we were on the two-lane, paved roads, however, was trying to stay on the right (or should I say left) side of the road. It took a while for my driving mind to get into some balance after the initial dissonance, and I was trying to pay attention to all of the things I had to “unlearn” in the process. For about the first hour, every time I went to signal a turn, the windshield wipers started up. Right hand turns were a real, real struggle, as you can imagine, surpassed in difficulty at the outset only by trying to navigate the roundabouts and always feeling like I was looking the wrong way. (A couple of times after going over one-laned bridges, I reflexively went over to the right hand side of the road only to have my kids scream “DAD! Wrong side!”) And the hardest part for me, at least, was getting in the habit of glancing to the left to see the rear view mirror. A bunch of times, cars that I didn’t even realize were behind me came whizzing by (on our right) almost causing me to drive off the road in the process. After a few hours, though, it all started to make sense in my head. No more wipers. No more screaming from the backseat. No more surprising passes. I actually started enjoying the view. (Actually, that part was easy.)

There is a point in here somewhere about unlearning and re-learning and fighting through the dissonance of change to come out the other side doing some things differently. Maybe a microcosm of what Sheryl and I have been over here prodding teachers to do. There is no question that they are further down the road in all of this than we seem to be, at least from an understanding that there are some technologies out there that are challenging the status quo of classrooms. And, from the standpoint of making it a national initiative to understand that stuff as well. New Zealanders seem to be much more in tune with the value of reflective assessment and the uses of assessment in general to help guide choices that kids make in addition to seeing what they “know.”

Still, it comes down to individuals getting comfortable with doing things differently. Driving on the “other” side of the road really isn’t so hard once you get used to it.