Friday, January 30, 2015

School or Learning?

It's been such a long time since I have blogged here. There's no time. I'm too busy planning, teaching, grading, blogging on my classroom blogs, responding to student blogs, and the email....don't even get me started on the burden of the email!

The more I don't write, the more I have to write. I miss writing for my own reflection, to look into the mirror of my mind and see what I see there! I decided today just to write. Of the many possibilities, this is what bubbled up to the surface.

Passion Can Not Be Boxed
After 25 years of working in this field I have moved beyond the confines of schooliness. This is not to say that I don't feel tremendous pressure from the outside nor that I don't have to do tasks, such as giving grades, in which I see little value.  I have moved to a new place in my own mind where I trust my instincts more, where passion has triumphed over fear, where playing small no longer serves me (if it ever did). This perspective has been attained only through years and years of incredibly hard work. This is the view from the top of a mountain that has taken my whole adult life to climb.

I think about schooliness a lot. As far as I know, that word was coined by Clay Burell, whose blog, Beyond School, I used to read regularly for inspiration. Although we work mostly in schools, the most passionate educators I know believe that schools need to evolve completely in order to become places that nurture learning and learners, that value joy and curiosity. What does it mean to be educated? Why don't we ask this question more often, of ourselves, of our society?

Why School?
Schools in America have become assembly lines of preparation for more schools which are supposed to be preparation for a good life. Are we asking ourselves if we are, indeed, creating a good life for all? What is a good life?

Here is Florida, the public schools are rated and graded. Parents, naturally, want their children to attend schools that are "A-Rated." What does it mean? It is all based on tests and more tests. AP classes and tests. Rigor. Homework. More homework. These have become the signposts people use to identify "good schools." Joy, curiosity, questioning, thinking....we KNOW these are important, but where is the time? Teachers are demoralized, and many of the best and brightest are leaving schools in order to teach.

Teaching is, at its core, not a job. Teaching is not the sum of the parts of managing a classroom, planning lessons, giving grades. Teaching is a relationship. The teacher-student relationship is archetypal and not in any way dependent on the thing we know as school. Sadly, many people with the job of teacher lack understanding of this truth.

Having an educated populace is more important than ever. Our planet is not in good shape (to put it mildly). We need amazing, educated, thinking people who want to share passion for life and learning with the young. We need to not try to shut those people down. We need to stop trying to measure the unmeasurable.

I suggest a new measurement we can use for if our education is working. Instead of the bubble tests that measure, among other things, ability to guess the best answer out of four, why don't we look around at our society. Are there less school shootings? Are there less suicides? Is the growth of the giant pile of garbage in the ocean slowing or reversing? I could go on and on....