We’re down to two weeks of summer. I don’t want summer to end. I hate the start of a new school year as I love having my kids around. We’re all so much more relaxed, too. I just don’t love school in general. Yes, I’ve a number of degrees, and yes, I’m a former teacher but I became a teacher to do it differently, became a teacher so I could take my students outside more and let them read on the grass beneath shady trees or with pillows on the classroom floor.
I’ve never understood why school has to be miserable, and maybe it’s not miserable for everyone, but I found it disturbing. I’m a voracious reader but in classrooms reading is chopped up into little bits, a piece here, a piece there. I’d be anxious to learn more about a subject and then we’re stopped and must wait for another day to continue a lesson. I’d be fascinated by a period in history but we had to have it dolled out, a little this year, a little more another year, and it made me crazy. I wanted to learn. I wanted to immerse myself in other worlds but most school lessons aren’t about immersion they’re divided into units, stretched or compressed into sessions. It’s not the way my brain works.
As a girl I went to the library and researched education and alternative schools and discovered that there were schools in other places that didn’t make you sit at a square desk inside a square classroom inside a square building from 8 am to 3 pm. There were schools where you planned your own curriculum and schools where you worked on your own and then met with a teacher to discuss what you were learning. There were schools that looked like atriums and had trees growing in the center. Schools with comfortable chairs and windows that looked out on nature. That was, and still is, my ideal school. A place of light and interesting spaces and intriguing architecture with endless books and comfortable places to read and work. As a former teacher I understand the necessities of classroom management–we must teach and we must be effective–but the mind is a beautiful thing and by and large we kill creativity in our public school system. Where I live we don’t teach creative writing anymore and essays are taught like a math skill–cs1, cs2, ts1, ts2–or whatever the formula is.
Last spring my 7th grader had to write an essay and he worked very hard on it. He chose the topic why steroids are bad and came up with three great supporting paragraphs and a strong intro and good conclusion. He brought it to me to read over and I gave him input. He went back and looked for more powerful quotes. He rewrote his intro paragraph, took out some of his opinion in the final paragraph to make sure it was as objective as possible. And then he submitted it online the way they do at his school to be graded by an anonymous grader at turnitin.com.
He got the essay back and he failed. He got an F. He was scared to tell me, too, afraid I’d be mad at him. But I wasn’t mad. I was confused, and sad. I used to teach 7th grade English. I am passionate about writing. I am passionate about learning. My son’s essay was well researched and well written. I didn’t understand the F. I still don’t. But there’s no one to go to on this. This is how we teach English now. You get points for your essay, for every ts or cs and if you don’t line up your sentences the way they should be, you fail.
My son will succeed despite the F on his essay. But it makes me sad. Writing isn’t just a science, its an art form and a passion and a living breathing thing. We, in our desire, to measure and quantify success, will smother creativity and curiosity and fire to learn and discover and become.
School starts soon. I’ll go back to being the supportive mom at home. But on the inside, I rebel. On the inside, I want so much more for kids, and not just my children, but all children. The mind is amazing. The young heart is hungry. Let’s really teach kids, and let’s teach them there isn’t one answer, but many answers, that there isn’t a right way, but endless possibilities, and that there isn’t just one goal, but thousands. Kids can’t achieve if we can’t teach them to dream. Kids can’t grow if we belittle their dream.
I am here doing what I do today because I believed there was a different way, a better way, to learn and to view the world. Let’s teach our kids to dare to be different. Let’s teach our kids to dream big and then help teach them to protect the dream.
And to celebrate these last two weeks of summer, I have one big pink beach tote, a thick fluffy hot pink beach towel and a stack of great summer reads, including a signed copy of Odd Mom Out to give away. I’ll announce the winner on Monday morning. Post a comment below, tell me if you’re ready for summer to end, or school to start, or your best/worst school memory, and you’ll automatically be entered to win my Summer Loving giveaway.