Tuesday, January 31, 2012

5 things I want my teacher to know about me Or Why I Would Opt Out of School

Cristina (@surrealyno) challenged me to write five things I would like my teacher to know from the perspective of a child.  This was a challenge I accepted and wrote, but could not post. I simply couldn't push publish and wasn't sure why, so I slept on it and was awake at 4:30 this morning thinking again. When I thought about my younger self--such a vulnerable child--I came to the realization that I wouldn't choose to participate in school if offered that choice. Bottom line: I wouldn't go to 'school' now as I would find it too restrictive, too 'otherly' directed.

Here's what I had intended


to post:



Portrait from Ireland by Mary Ann Reilly
Me in Ireland. Circa too many years ago:)




  1. I learn & play anytime, anywhere, anyplace. The borders between formal and informal spaces of learning interest me and I prefer not to be limited. In short: I prefer but/and to either/or.
  2. I often don't even see the proverbial box, let alone do I easily think inside it. I ask you to trust my process and afford me great latitude to learn which means that location, context, time, and direction need to remain in our collective hands.
  3. I like to go outside and walk about. I like the rain and getting messy. Being outdoors is important to me. Travel is important to me. I want to connect.
  4. I live a wide-awake life in a connected world and desire tools of my choosing to think with/through and the time to do so. Choice matters greatly to me, including the choice to say no. Please don't restrict my capacity to compose.
  5. I think team trumps solo most of the time, but not all of the time. It is important to me to have both solitary time and team time. Did I mention choice?

So how realistic might it be to find a school where these five conditions were present?  Even with that aside, I still would not opt for traditional school.  The world has decidedly altered and new options are present.  I would want to chart my own course and be able to design learning, not simply participate.  Years ago I attended an experimental college as an undergraduate where I was able to design my college study.  This was valuable to me.  I think about this for my son, almost 13, and know that both my husband and I are not so sure he will actually attend high school--and certainly not for four years. We would like to explore alternatives to high school with him. I can't imagine him sitting in x periods a day, five days a week, 40 weeks a year and dutifully going from course to course. This seems less relevant than being in the world. This is not to say that we don't want excellent teachers for him. We do.

Excellent teachers are life altering.

I'm no longer convinced though that excellent teachers can only be found at that place called school. Truly, we want more for him.

13 comments:

  1. Having been a teacher for more years than I care to remember, I have been aware for very many years (from the time when I realised that it wasn't the teaching, but the learning that should be central to my work), that for many children (including one of my sons) school is absolutely the wrong place. It's sad to think of how many children are completely 'squashed' by the system - but also good to know that there are those, like my son (and you?) who can ultimately rise above it.

    Thanks for your post. Jenny

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    Replies
    1. Jenny, thanks so much for your response. I worried when I posted this that one might read it as 'anti-teacher' which is not the intention. So it was affirming that the first response would come from a teacher. I think it is decidedly difficult these days to actually teach given so many of the constraints about content and pedagogy that many face on a daily basis. What did you end up doing where your son was concerned?

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    2. My son is now in his mid-30s. He left school at 16, i.e. as soon as he could. I'm afraid I wasn't old enough or wise enough or brave enough at the time to consider that he might not need to go through the system. To his credit and my immense pride he has educated himself since leaving school, without ever going near a formal institution. I'm not against schools or institutions. My second son is doing a wonderfully creative music technology degree as a mature student and it has transformed him. But some children will never fit into our education system. I don't think your post is 'anti-teacher', and I know all about the constraints that teachers work under, but I do wish more teachers would try to subvert the system for those children who do not fit!

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    3. Me too, Jenny. Multiple pathways to meaningful learning need to be our priority.

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  2. Hi Mary,

    Thank you first for participating in this meme challenge.
    "Being in the world" is the essence that I am taking with me from this post. Powerful and ripe with meanings.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the opportunity. I learned so much by following the prompt that you gave.

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  3. I know I sound anti-school in much of my writing. I hope I never sound anti-teacher. (You certainly don't sound anti-teacher in this piece, or anything else I've read of yours.)

    I wrote something called My Ideal School, that you might enjoy. (Re-reading it now, I see that I left out much that's important to me, assuming it. I think I'll try re-working this a bit some day.)

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    Replies
    1. Wow, I would sign on to that ideal space of learning. Has everything I value. Thanks Sue for sharing it.

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  4. If a revolution is needed in how we educate our children, then we need revolutionary schools:

    Oak Grove School (Ojai, CA)
    awakening intelligence

    A Climate for Inquiry

    The Art of Learning and Living

    Teaching Academy

    School's founder talking with students in India:
    On discovering and following your hidden talent (1984) (video: 0:00 - 5:25)

    Letters to the Schools (from the founder) - Vol. 1 (1978-1980) and Vol. 2 (1981-1983)

    The real revolution is inward, and there is no "app" for that. Instead, we have to start by asking fundamental questions: what is the purpose of education? what are we being educated for? Is it only to have a career, to get a job? Are we educating the whole person, or only a part? Are we "individuals" (the word literally means "indivisible" - i.e., whole)? The whole contains the part but the part can never grasp the whole. Who is the educat(or) and the educat(ed), and what is their relationship -- to each other, to the community and to the world? And who will educate the educator?

    To learn, one must be free to learn, to inquire, to investigate, to see things as they are. That freedom must be at the very beginning of the journey - in the first step, not the last step. Not freedom "from" something, but freedom itself. How will that freedom come about, so that real learning can take place, and what is the responsibility of the school to ensure that this happens? Is the educator free? What does it mean to be free (inwardly)?

    This school emerged many years ago from engaging with just these fundamental questions. It remains a place where such questions are a natural part of a learning process in which there is no division between "living" and "learning."

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  5. Here are the correct links that go with the previous post:

    Oak Grove School (Ojai, CA)
    awakening intelligence
    http://www.oakgroveschool.com/

    A Climate for Inquiry
    http://www.oakgroveschool.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=136&Itemid=161

    The Art of Learning and Living
    http://www.oakgroveschool.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19&Itemid=30

    Teaching Academy
    http://www.oakgroveschool.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=87&Itemid=182

    School's founder talking with students in India:
    On discovering and following your hidden talent (1984) (video: 0:00 - 5:25)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZU9IyDYzdg

    Letters to the Schools (from the founder)
    Vol. 1 (1978-1980)
    http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-text.php?tid=53&chid=330
    Vol. 2 (1981-1983)
    http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/krishnamurti-teachings/view-text.php?tid=40&chid=329

    ReplyDelete