Who are you? What label would you give yourself?
Intensely curious and passionate about the truth, I’m still trying to find myself almost 5 decades later. Why I think pegging myself will help, I’m not sure. I do know that I have an overwhelming need to solve puzzles and my youngest son is my latest. Just when I slap on a label, he seems to change; but so do I. Or, at least my insights do.
Since grade school, I have been on a crusade to right the wrongs of education. Schooling was never enough for me. I wasn’t a straight A student (until I went back for my Masters in Education Degree), but I’m coming to terms with the fact that it wasn’t me who dropped the ball; it was the schools. By all appearances, I attended a few pretty typical parochial schools and went onto a local community college finishing up at a well-known state college. None of them inspired me. None served as a catalyst to higher learning. How would they know how to serve me? I had no label. My student label was unidentifiable.
Inspired learning is what I did on the side. In my mind, school wasn’t the place where I learned. It was the place that gave me the piece of paper after completing the requirements of time and minimal effort needed for graduation. School lacked challenge, deep thought, provocative discussions, choice, and flexibility which are pretty much my top 5 requirements for a fulfilling learning experience. Even my college courses were chosen for me outside of the the occasional elective. School was a place to follow the rules and stay in the box watching the clock as time inched forward. I couldn’t wait to get out so I could get started with my life. Ironically, I chose teaching BECAUSE I saw glimpses of educational excitement and I was hell- bent on making that the focus of my own classroom. My hope was that in the future, other children could benefit from what I had to offer in a classroom. I eagerly slapped on a teacher label and set off to change the world.
Teaching my way through the public school system (after struggling to get my own curiosities met), I set out on a mission for equality. On the other hand, perhaps you might even say, inequality. While treating everyone the same sounds good in theory, in application, it’s a disaster and is exactly what’s tearing apart the educational system. We are all the same and yet, deliciously different. Finding a way to give a little more, a little less, and a whole lot of different is an recipe worth pursuing in education, but the ones doing the cooking are the child and the teacher. My teacher label is always evolving as I grow in understanding of the nuances in learning.
I smiled while reading a recent blog by My Twice Baked Potato. It said simply, My Interview with Celi Tre’panier. (By the way, I enjoyed the post too!) I have nothing but admiration and respect for both of these ladies. They’re dedicated to learning. Here we all are, 3 former public school educators with decades of classroom experience now homeschooling our own out-of-the-box children and trying to figure it all out along the way. We understand labels and how they’re supposed to solve the problems with education, but we also know that a label isn’t a shortcut to learning. With Celi and Kelly (of MTBP), we understood that school can’t meet the needs of our children and we all chose to do something “drastic” to make sure that happened. We gave up our full-time teaching careers for our children not because of an illness or disease, but to take care of their brains; their futures. Homeschooling is an option that all three of us were shocked to choose, but we understand that it’s the only choice we have for our children right now. Somehow our former labels of classroom teachers became homeschool moms, bloggers, and authors. Did we really change or was it only the labels?
I’ve seen glimpses into the future of education and it’s beyond exciting to me! I’ve seen alternative schooling that puts the child first (and not in name only as in most schools). That still amazes me that it takes alternative schooling to realize that the central figure in a school is the student. Students are asked about their interests, supported in their weaknesses, and urged onward through their strengths. Just thinking about a school like that makes me want to cry. Can you imagine a world where pursuing your dreams with support really happens? They understand inspired learning. It’s not some far-fetched logistical nightmare. It’s obtainable. Places like Anastasis Academy are already doing it. Unfortunately, most schooling is still stuck in the stone age. The only thing preventing it from happening is red tape and politics. Do we really need an alternative school student label?
What makes a good learning environment? People can give you long lists of ideals, but fitting the needs of the child; not the needs of the adults should be the utmost goal. Schools have evolved making incremental changes by offering limited (usually pull-out) programs for learning support for students, but unfortunately, they have a long way to go. Labeling kids has been the only solution. If you’re not labeled, you must not need an alternative in learning approach. That’s the common perception that has been around since I began my career and is still going strong. Decades have gone by thinking this is the only way to modify learning.
Luckily, I did experience one school along the way that understood me and my learning needs even without my label. Curiously, my online masters program was the most fulfilling of all of my learning environments. Of course, it fit my interests, flexibility needs, and passions, so it really didn’t come as a surprise. It’s the style of learning I needed all along.
Slapping a label on someone is no way to serve students.