Safe

“The only safe place in all of human existence is in the center of the will of God.”  –Mark Ashton

Last night, the power went out in my building for about two minutes.  Just long enough for me to be startled, find a flashlight, and light a couple of candles.  Then just like that, it was over, the lights were back on.

As usual, my mind raced directly to the worst case scenario.  It was an apolcolypse-style image, no electricity for weeks, no working phones, no gas beyond what is already in the car, you get the picture.  Believe it or not, this type of reaction on my part does not indicate panic, or overreaction, or even fear.  For me, this is a coping mechanism.  I jump immediately to the worst case scenario, think through how I would deal with that, and then I am reassured that I can deal with whatever actually happens.  I think knowing what I can do helps.  For me, taking action is always a more comfortable state than waiting.

Of course, sometimes I find myself in a situation where there is nothing to be done.  About a year ago, I was camping with friends and found myself in a tent in the middle of the night listening to a massive thunderstorm.  Well, I think it was massive.  A thunderstorm seems much more serious when the only thing between me and it is a thin layer of slightly water repellent fabric.  I felt like everyone else was sleeping through it, like I was the only chicken awake, waiting to be struck by lightening or swept away in a tornado.  My head said I was overreacting, but my adrenaline just kept pumping.  I remembered, as I have so often in various situations, that the worst case scenario still isn’t that bad.  My mantra became, “God, keep me safe or take me home.  Keep me safe or take me home.  Keep me safe or take me home…”  That canoe trip wasn’t supposed to be a spiritual awakening.  Just a fun trip, tent camping and canoing with friends.  …But isn’t an experience with nature always a spiritual event?

Safe…the way we usually think of safe…is overrated.  Safe is sitting still.  It’s missing out.  It’s keeping quiet.  Safe is the most dangerous place in the world.

Sometimes, I’m really, really good at staying safe…in a bad way.

“The center of the will of God”… That’s a risky place to live.  What will He ask me to do?  Where will He lead me?  And yet…risk is profoundly awesome.  I know no other word for it.  Doing the scary things, simply because I know in my innermost being it’s what I’m supposed to do, is ironically the most powerful feeling I have ever experienced.

I have free will.  I have the power to choose to stay in a safe bubble with no risk, no required courage.  When I do, I feel powerless.

When I destroy my bubble and give control to the One who has much bigger, better, riskier plans, I feel more powerful than one person could possibly be.  You know why?  Because when I live in the center of the will of God, I am more powerful than myself.  It’s the safest place in the world.  It is the only safe place.

Wish I were there…

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.”  –Isak Dinesen

Too Much & Not Enough

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most.

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Maryanne Williamson

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I’ve heard before the idea that women’s insecurities stem from feeling like too much or not enough.  Or feeling both at the same time.  I don’t remember where I read it, and I’m sure the same thing could be said for men, but in this particular discussion, the mystery author was talking about women’s tendencies toward insecurity. 

“I am too much.  I have emotions and opinions and my man doesn’t like that.  In fact, it scares him when I have such strong emotions.  He doesn’t seem to react to the world like that, with such strong emotion, and me having more emotion than him upsets the balance of the relationship.  I am too much.  If I want to keep his love and approval, I can’t be so much.”

“I am not enough.  I am not skinny enough.  I am not rich enough.  I am not smart enough.  I am not nice enough.  I am not mean enough.  I am not spontaneous enough.  I am not responsible enough.  If I want to keep his love and approval, I need to be more.”

Instead of a man, these voices could be talking about a boss or a parent or nearly anyone.  Can’t you just completely identify with both sides?  No wonder we’re so screwed up!!! 

Of course, as strongly as we can identify with both sides, they are worthless as a measuring tool.  If I am fighting insecurity (measuring myself), another person’s approval won’t fix it.  If someone is disapproving of me (measuring someone else), my changing to fit their standards won’t fix it.  The problem lies in the measuring, not in what is being measured.

It’s tricky, this notion of living in a human world with a human mind, and yet refraining from evaluating our self-worth based upon, let’s face it, other humans!  Even more than we are constrained by the boundaries of humanity, we are spiritual beings, created by God.  God does not see us through the lense of human limitations.  As difficult as it is to wrap my mind around it, God sees each of us with no measuring stick whatsoever.  God is love, and love does not measure.

So I will stand up and say, in the words of Ms. Williamson:  I am brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous!

Okay, I’m not famous.

But I am enough, and I am not too much. 

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“He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

–Colossians 2:13-17

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(As our pastor said this morning, explaining that the mentioned events were related to the strictness of Judaism at that time and in that place, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever been judged for an inadequate New Moon celebration!”  Haha!)

Glogster

Their Troth

William:  “….to love and to cherish, until death us do part, according to God’s holy law.  And thereto, I give thee my troth.”

Kate:  “…to love and to cherish, until death us do part, according to God’s holy law.  And thereto, I give thee my troth.”

Me:  Does troth mean treasure and wealth?  That doesn’t sound as beautiful and fairy-tale as the rest of the vows; his troth is surely bigger than her troth.  Why would they want to talk about troth in their wedding vows? 

It turns out troth means promise, as in “I give you my word.”  Never mind. 

And that is one of the many reasons why I shall never marry a prince.  🙂

Photo Credit

Unloveable

{I love this book.  It makes me cry.  I can’t read it to my students.}

My friends Stacey and Ryan were married yesterday.  {Sidenote–My first purple bridesmaid dress!  You know how I love purple.  It was beautiful.  For those of you who reference the movie and are counting, 7 down, 20 to go!  :P} 

At Stacey and Ryan’s wedding, a statement was made:  “True love means that you will love me when I am the most unloveable.”  That statement struck a chord with me.  I can’t seem to get my act together with regards to romantic relationships.  Never have.  I date the wrong guys for too long, I push the good guys away, I don’t open myself up and allow anyone to get close.  (At this moment, I sincerely hope none of them are reading this…and I don’t think they are, but I’m paranoid…but I’m going to be brave and honest anyway.)  Half the time I think it’s just bad luck, the other half of the time I think something must be wrong with me.  I am defective in some way.  Something about me isn’t compatible with being close to someone else.

But that statement from the wedding got me thinking.  Of course God will arrange the right relationship for me in His own time, and that’s the only way I want it.  But I also know that God can be holding out an opportunity and I can push it away.  I have this mentality that I sort of don’t want to meet my someone until I complete all these tasks and make myself more perfect, eliminate the unloveable.  Less fat.  Less debt.  More cute clothes.  Finally find a haircut that I like.  Clean closets.  Stop leaving things in the fridge well past their expiration dates.  Somehow be skinny, tan, stylish, graceful, generous, and…well…just less me and more perfect.

The fact that I push people away when they start getting close to discovering the “unloveable” about me is an issue.  My friends Dave and Christine recently helped me with my taxes, and I couldn’t find last year’s taxes when I needed them.  Dave and Christine witnessed me searching high and low for last year’s taxes, knowing full well that if I had just filed them away in an organized manner last year, this wouldn’t be an issue.  Or if I had thought of it, I could have searched for them before they came over. 

By the way, it is actually possible to do this year’s taxes without access to last year’s adjusted gross income.  🙂

(I never did find them.)

Dave and Christine have seen me in some of my more “unloveable” moments.  In a swimsuit when I don’t feel particularly attractive.  No makeup and sweating like crazy when we’re playing ultimate frisbee on an 85-degree day.  Dave and I went on vacation together last summer…Going on vacation with me is a lot more than I usually have to reveal to friends!  Plane travel, sleeping in the same room, seeing exactly what I do eat and do and say for five or six days straight. 

And yet, this feeling of having Christine and Dave see me not be able to put my hands on something I needed…I was mortified.  I don’t think they knew that.  Or maybe they did, they’re pretty perceptive.  Dave and Christine are just the right kind of friends for me–they will shove their way in through a window if I don’t open a door for them.  Metaphorically, of course.  I would like to think they are aware that it would really freak me out if they actually entered through the window in my apartment.  🙂

Which brings me back around to wanting someone who will love me when I am most unloveable.  The debt, the fat, the disorganized…those are not the most unloveable things about me.  One of the cliche statements about parenting is that babies don’t come with an owner’s manual.  Well, I think I should come with an owner’s manual.  There are so few people in the world who love me when I am unloveable.  I can count them on one hand.  That’s just the way people are, and I doubt anyone else’s world is any different.  Everyone wants something from you, or expects something of you, and when you don’t live up, when you are found to be defective, they are finished with you.  Or if they’re your family and can’t get rid of you, they are finished with you until you prove to be worthy again.  I have a feeling this is true for everyone, but we all experience the world differently.  The owner’s manual for someone who wants me needs to make it clear that I experience a world where I am never, ever good enough.  Where I will always feel like I’m weighed and found wanting.  Where I feel alone in the middle of a crowd, and terrified in the midst of success.  And I think those things might be the most unloveable things about me.

So my directions might say:

1. Never, ever be pushed away.  I will push you away, because that is what I do.  I push people away so that they can’t get in, can’t see the things that I fear they will find unacceptable.  When I say I want you to go, what I really want is for you to stay, to see me, and to accept.  What I am saying is, “If you stay, you will see something that I don’t like about myself.  If you don’t like it either, it would be worse than you just leaving.  So go away, and then I’ll never have to know if you would have rejected me.”  Push back.  Stay.  Don’t let me push you away.

2. The loudest thing I experience isn’t what I see, hear, smell, touch, or taste.  It’s what I feel.  I experience emotions every day that are raw and fresh.  I take on the emotions of those around me, real or fictitious.  You can’t dismiss them.  You can’t say I shouldn’t feel this way, and you can’t say something is not a big deal when, to me, it is.  Because I will try to please you, and I will try to hold it all in, and eventually, I will explode.  So just be a sponge to absorb what I give.  Hug me when I’m happy, and when I’m sad, or scared, or excited.  Really, that’s all I need.

3.  My sister and I are a package deal.  End of story.  She was there before you, and she is the only person on the planet for whom I don’t try to be perfect.

4.  And on a practical note…Hug and kiss me all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  I cannot have too much contact.  For all the things I don’t understand about myself, that is one thing I know is true.

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I read an autobiography today.  All 279 pages of it in one day.  {After the wedding week, I protected today from obligations, knowing I would just need some down time.}  It was an easy and fast read, but it still surprised me that I finished it!  I’m not going to tell you who it was; it’s embarassing.

Okay, I’ll tell you.  Living boldly and authentically and all that.

I read Miles to Go by Miley Cyrus. 

Okay, and now you have to give me a chance to defend myself.  🙂  I saw The Last Song, and loved it.  Loved it so much I have watched the trailer online several times after I’ve seen the movie.  So much that I went and saw it again, by myself, because the first time we missed the first 15 minutes of the movie.  Loved it so much that it officially makes my list of movies that speak to me, and change me in some way.  Loved it so much that I’m not going to read the book.  Miley Cyrus plays the main character in the movie.  When I love a movie (or t.v. show or whatever) that much, I always want to know more about the real people who play the characters.  I didn’t really know anything about Miley Cyrus, other than who her dad is, and the fact that she plays Hannah Montana on Disney Channel.  (You are living in a cave if you teach little kids and don’t know the difference between Hannah Montana, Miley Stewart, and Miley Cyrus!)  I figured I would spend $10, read it, and sell it to Half Price Books for however much.  It’s still new enough that getting it from the library would be a small hassle and a long wait.

And who knows, I wonder if I’ll put it on my shelf and never touch it again, and stack it up with the Half Price Books pile in a couple months.  I just finished it 30 minutes ago, I need some time to process.  (As always!)  But I know that I’ll be putting it on my shelf for awhile.  Some of her pre-fame experiences are just too similar to my middle-school experiences to dismiss her to my give-away box already!  And her discussion of her first relationship, with someone she calls Prince Charming (though you can ask the girls in my class if you want more information…amused sigh and eye roll here…) is candid, wise, and hopeful.  Just in general, she speaks with wisdom of a woman with life experience, even as she writes with the eagerness and enthusiasm of a teenager.  I am very curious to see who she is in 20 years.

When I write songs, I try to tell a whole story. But sometimes the whole story isn’t ready to be told.  The bridge of a song is the transitional part, the part that musically connects two parts of the song.  It’s sometimes called the climb.  After the bridge, a song may come back to the chorus, but it’s bigger, it’s grander, and it feels different because of what happened in the bridge.  When you hear the bridge, you feel things changing, and you know the finale is near.

Over the past couple of years, my mind has wandered back to a relationship I had about ten years ago.  It was an important relationship, and a really great one, for who we were at the time, but for some reason I let go of it so completely that there weren’t any lessons learned, any wisdom to be carried into future experiences.  As I’ve been realizing that I don’t let people get close, I’ve been circling back to this important relationship a little bit.  Of all my romantic relationships, that was the only one where I really let him in.  I knew his deep dark secrets, and he knew mine.  He saw all the way to the back of my closets, if you will.  🙂 

We were so bonded, in fact, that after we broke up it was a good year or so before we stopped seeing each other between other relationships.  About six months after we broke up, we were hanging out, doing our usual cuddling and catching up with what was going on in our lives, and he asked me why I wouldn’t let him kiss me.  I said it was because we were broken up, and I knew if I let us go there, I wouldn’t want to be broken up anymore.  We still loved each other so much, it was hard to remember that we wanted to be broken up, especially when we were acting like we were together.  But when I was leaving, he hugged me at the door, and then just as I was turning to go, he grabbed my hand and pulled me back in, and kissed me passionately.  It was a movie-worthy kiss, which happens so rarely in real life!  And that is how he became my most romantic kiss ever.  When we weren’t even together.

Truthfully, maybe that’s why I let go of him so completely, in the end.  I had to move forward.  We both did.  When I finally let go, I had to let go to the extent that I could go on, and be with someone else without considering them through the filter of this relationship.  And I did.  I didn’t think about that kiss once for probably a good five or six years.  Or anything else about the relationship.  His name was in the “list of boyfriends,” and that’s it.

Come to think of it, I have always thought that if any of my relationships is responsible for my interpersonal defects, it was the next one, the mean one.  But I wonder if my Prince Charming didn’t play a part.  Being that connected, that bonded with someone…the separation was long and painful.  Wanting to kiss someone you’re not really allowed to want to kiss…wanting to call him when he’s not supposed to be your first call anymore…knowing that you could say one sentence and he would already know the background information to understand what you’re going through…  When two people’s lives are woven together like that, pulling them apart is a slow and difficult process.  I wonder if a part of me just wanted to avoid ever having to do that again.  And I will admit, all my breakups since then have been easier, cleaner, and more satisfying.  You know, when you know the relationship isn’t right, there is something very freeing about being done with it.  I don’t think Prince Charming and I ever felt free, or had a “clean break” moment.  We just had to keep pulling at the threads for awhile.

He is the beginning of the story.  He is the chorus of the song.  The bridge has lasted nearly eight years, once you account for all the in-between-trysts, but in my future there is someone who I will let see my secrets, and my closets, and my unloveable moments.  And it will be like that important relationship, but it will be bigger and grander, because this person will be more right for me, but also because of everything that I have experienced since then, including struggling to let people in.

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I know that’s a lot of personal information.  I just had to share with someone, even if it is internet strangers!  🙂

Misery loves the first day of school.

Get your soapboxes ready, it’s the first Friday night of the school year!  🙂

First, let me summarize my life over the past couple of weeks.  Last week, I spent many hours in my classroom, with my new coteacher, putting things in order.  This week, contract days started on Monday.  Monday and Tuesday, mostly spending time in the classroom with my new coteacher.  Wednesday, kick-off event for all however-many-thousand teachers and other employees in the morning, work time in the afternoon.  Last week was mostly about the stuff of the classroom–tables, shelves, materials, where to put everything.  This week has been mostly about the class of the classroom–planning how we’re going to do this.  Thursday was the first day of school, today was day two.

This week has been mostly miserable for me.  My start-of-the-school-year anxiety has been over the top, compared to past years.  Part of it, of course, is that I’m teaching a different grade.  A big, big part of it is the business of coteaching.  Working out differences in personality and beliefs about teaching has been killer.  But another part, a part that I think was triggered by having to define and defend my beliefs about teaching, is that my beliefs about how kids learn don’t really fit with the typical elementary school classroom.

 

I believe that there is a sort of threshold in the brain between being so bored you think you can’t go on, and going on.  I think having time and freedom is essential to brain development in children, as much as is safe for their age.  I think they should be given as much physical freedom of space as their level of responsibility will allow, with minimal adult input.  They should be encouraged to decide what they will do with their time.  In my opinion, that is so important to the development of high-level skills like problem solving.  In case you haven’t noticed, elementary classrooms are pretty much vacant of the freedom to get bored and decide what to do.

I believe a system of rewards devalues the thing that is being rewarded.  Should read because I, the teacher, will give you a prize?  Should you read because I will come around the classroom and tell you you’re doing a good job?  Or should you read because there is some intrinsic value in the reading itself?  If I reward and praise you, I am teaching you to rely on me.  I am relying on the value of the rewards and praise.  If you don’t care what I think, and you aren’t interested in what’s in the treasure box, my method of motivating you is going to fail.  If I instill in you the idea that there is value in reading, and I provide you with a choice of books that are at your level and geared to your interests, and if I leave you to it and stay out of the way, you learn to rely on your own self-monitoring.  If you choose a book for your own purposes, it’s your own motivation, not mine.  This opinion stands for behavior, as well.  Should you refrain from hitting your classmate because I think it’s wrong?  Wouldn’t it be better if you thought it were wrong?  It doesn’t really matter what I think.  If you think it’s okay, you’ll only refrain from hitting while you’re in my presence.  I am much more interested in what you (the student) think, because that’s what guides your choices all the time, not just in my classroom.

I might light some fires with this one, but I believe that television is evil when it comes to brain development.  Learning requires interacting with the concept, idea, material, etc.  No amount of Dora will teach a preschooler to speak Spanish.  Sorry.  And television has this strange quality that it seems to go right into the brain without a pause to evaluate what you think about what you saw.  If you see two people yelling at each other in the mall, it makes you uncomfortable and you want to stay away.  If you see it on t.v., it doesn’t evoke that reaction.  For some reason, we don’t automatically stop and think about what we see on t.v.  It bothers me that I learned more about sexual morals from television than I did from my parents, because my parents were not silent or laissez-faire on the topic.  The things depicted in fictional and reality television…sex, violence, even littler things like rudeness and selfishness.  It makes me worry even more about kids who don’t have adults talking with them about these issues.

And yet more fires…I believe that caffeine and sugar and processed foods do wonky things to the brain, and have no place in a brain that is still forming.  And that should light the biggest fire of all, because you all know that I am a sugar junky, and I sacrafice sleep and replace it with coffee, and I eat things like tater tots and pop tarts, right along with my green smoothies and hummus.  So let’s agree that this is an opinion, and I am definitely being a hippocrite.  And let’s understand that if I do have children, I hope to instill a value of balance along with nutrition, in other words, sometimes pop tarts are okay as long as you’re drinking your green smoothie.  🙂

 

I believe kids learn best when they initiate the inquiry.  “I’m the teacher and I know you should learn this” is not a very powerful motivation.  Without wanting to learn, we learn nothing.  If our motivation is to stay out of trouble, to please the teacher or our parents, we learn very little.  If our motivation is to figure something out, answer a question we have, or to make ourselves better at something, we can learn quite a lot.  Nobody needs to teach (on purpose) a baby how to crawl or walk or talk.  In a perfect world, no one would need to teach a 5-year-old how to read or a 7-year-old how to add two-digit numbers, or a 15-year-old how to find the length of the side of a right triangle when given the other two sides, for that matter.  In a perfect world, kids would have the freedom and time and adult support to figure those things out as they needed to.  Sometimes they would discover these things just as though they were the first person to discover it.  Many times they would figure out how to find out, who to ask, where to look.  The problem with this imperfect world is that we don’t trust the natural learning process.  We don’t trust that every kid will learn to read, and we don’t trust that they can do it without us forcing it down their throats.  Also, we are all (most of us) products of the traditional teacher/student situation, so we don’t act like we would if we were still natural learners.  All a child needs to learn to read is to constantly see adults read, have books read to him whenever he wants, and have his questions encouraged and answered.  This is possible in our imperfect world…I’m living proof of that.  But learning concepts related to trigonometry, algebra, calculus, history, sociology, biology, physics, chemistry?  Not many of us could be constantly seen using all of those paths of knowledge and skills by our children, and not many of us could answer questions related to all of them.  We have “learned” them, placed them in the proper file in our brain, (aka, “high school calculus class”), and immediately forgotten them, never to be accessed or used again.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, anyone can function just fine in the world without knowing one bit of calculus.  It’s just evidence that we are no longer natural learners.  I don’t think that’s something that “just happens” when you grow up.  It is my opinion that school, and the culture that requires formal education, has beaten the natural learner out of us.  There are a few exceptional people who are able to retain their natural curiosity throughout school, but I think they are few and far between.  More often, I think there are people who can go out into the world and reconnect with their natural desire to learn.

I can’t wait to have children, because I would love to do homeschooling or unschooling!  This is, of course, if I’m able to stay home with them when the time comes.  (Also, if I get married, and if I have children.  God’s business.)  Since I have lost a lot of my natural learner qualities, my plan would be to “let them go” as long as I can, to unschool unless they need more.  If I do “homeschool,” it will be with the child leading the materials, not the other way around.  And eventually, I would want the parents to make a joint decision with the child if formal high school, or a few certain classes, would be right for him, based on what he’s interested in and what he wants to do.  I think it would be quite a culture shock for a homeschooled child to enter a high school biology class, and a culture shock for the other students in the class as well.  They’re so numbed to learning by that point, and he would be so open and curious.  But if he was truly interested in biology, and wanted to know more than I could teach him, and decided he wanted to take the class, he’d learn a ton, despite those differences.  Not to mention, he would learn from those differences as well!  And, if he was to a point in his maturity where he knew he wanted to go to a certain college or go into a certain field of post-secondary education, he might decide that full-time high school is the way to go.

The bottom line is, the skills and knowlege needed to function as a happy and productive member of society are within a parent’s ability to teach, if they so desire.  The only motivation the child needs is contact with the real world.  This is how we buy things we need, therefore, I want to learn about money.  And banks.  And how to drive.  This is how I can build a tree fort that doesn’t fall down, therefore, I need to learn about physics.  And geometry.  And tools.  Etcetera.  Anything else, wanting to be a doctor, a musician, a mechanic, or a librarian, is up to each person as they grow into adulthood.  Nobody, homeschooled or not, thinks they can be a doctor without learning a lot about biology, chemistry, etc.  Nobody thinks they can be a musician without seeking out the most skilled musicians they can to teach them.  We realize that our lives are a journey, and we make the choices we need to accomplish our goals.  A future doctor knows she doesn’t need to learn to play the oboe in order to become a doctor.  So, in making choices to accomplish her goal of being a doctor, finding a good oboe teacher wouldn’t be one of her choices.  Maybe she just wants to learn to play the oboe for fun, and then she might be looking for an oboe teacher, along with getting into a good medical university.  At any rate, once we learn what we need to be happy and productive members of the community, our path is up to us.

 

So, one of the reasons I was having a hard time this week was this thought that was planted long ago, and brought to light on Wednesday at our big kick-off brunch thing.  The superintendent read a quote (Slaven, Madden, Dolan, & Wasik, 1996):

If we truly believed that every child could learn under proper circumstances, we would be relentless in the search of those circumstances.

As the day went on, I wanted nothing more than to run as far away from public education as I could.  Because I do truly believe that every child can learn under the proper circumstances.  No quote, no motivational speech by a superintendent is needed to convince me of that.  The circumstances I was preparing for my first graders weren’t them.

But the kicker is the rest of the quote:

If we truly believed that all schools could ensure the success of all children, then the failure of even a single child would be cause for great alarm, and immediate, forceful intervention.

Hmm.  I don’t believe that schools can ensure the success of all children, because there are small-ish things that can screw it up, otherwise known as what happens to the child between the hours of 3:30 p.m. and 8:30 a.m.  And, there is one big-ish thing that might be highly overlooked: choice.  Hard as we might try, we actually can’t force learning down a child’s throat.  If a child is making a choice to reject a teacher’s teaching, try as you might to coerce him into making another choice, you can’t always do that.  He is a person with free will, as much as I am.

So my anxiety on Wednesday centered around the thought: If I don’t believe that school is the best circumstances for children, what the hell am I doing here?  If I wouldn’t send my kids to school in the ideal circumstances, if I think this version of learning is so far away from natural learning, then why would I join the cause???  The funny thing is, if I weren’t a teacher, I’m not sure I would have these strong opinions about how kids learn best.  But you can see my conflict.  When I taught preschool, I was working with a curriculum that was very open and child-led.  It satisfied all my needs to allow kids to get bored, to allow kids to initiate the inquiry.  It was a blast, and the kids learned so much so happily.  To do that with a class of first-graders might get me fired!

 

Thursday was the first day of school, and the first day of school is always crazy, fast, difficult, and with a touch of I don’t want to come back tomorrow!  I will say, the first day of first grade was much easier than the first day of preschool!  They’ve done this “school thing,” the standing in line, the raising their hands.  Preschoolers have no clue about that kind of stuff.  But it still had a shade of miserable for me.  To be expected, if you ask me.  But today, the second day of first grade, oh my!  It was almost too much fun!  🙂  I am so excited for the random school day about two or three weeks from now when I suddenly realize it’s gotten easier.  I can’t wait until five or six weeks from now, when we are so firmly settled into our routines and expectations, and I suddenly see the progress someone has made in their learning.

That’s why I am a teacher — because watching kids learn is awesome.  I don’t ever feel like I do it on purpose…I give them the right situation, the right materials, the right environment, and it just happens.  I can’t teach a child any more than I can grow a leaf.  All I can do is provide water and sunshine.  (And maybe we should wait and see how my houseplants do before we use the plant metaphors…)  And the thing is, I don’t have enough say in their lives to provide what I believe is the best learning circumstances.  I take children who have never been bored, who thrive on reward and punishment, who watch t.v. more hours a week than they spend in school, who eat nothing but tater tots and pop tarts, and who can’t remember how to be curious.  And I take an educational system that dictates what should be learned when, and how, and by whom.  And that is what I have.  And I do the best I can with what I have in this situation.  Maybe someday I’ll do something radical in the classroom, like Steven Levy did and documented in his book Starting From Scratch.  Or maybe I’ll eventually go back to preschool and enjoy the freedom of the curriculum there.  Or maybe I’ll feel this conflict all the time until I one day have my own children, and leave public education behind to focus solely on them.  In the mean time, I think I’ll go back to school on Monday.  🙂

(Whew, how’s that for a 45-minute Friday night soapbox rant!  Did it take you as long to read it as it took me to write it???)

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