Thursday, March 03, 2005

NO IMAGE, JUST A RANT

Last night at church we were all sitting around for a Lenten discussion. The topic was "passion" and what it means to have passion in our lives. As we went around the room, I was pretty amazed at some of the different perspectives people were bringing to the table. Some perspectives were tempered by age or life experience. Still others were affected by race and cultural factors. It was a pretty lively discussion. Mandy related how her passion in life is working with young children. Her voice shaking with emotion, she went on to relate how her passion sustains her during the difficult times and how she is always amazed at what she finds around each new corner--the happy surprises that occur when you work with children. I was awestruck--not only at how well Mandy was able to articulate her feelings but at the fact that I've never heard her talk at such length about what drives her in her job.

It was around this point in the discussion that a person offered their perspective. She was an older woman and her life experience was that you worked to provide for your family, to keep your head above water. Passion was a luxury that few people she knew could afford to give themselves over to. She went on to say that she felt passion was, at times, an indulgence--a distraction almost, from what is important in life. Because she is the parent of three young children, she felt like she was ill-equipped to handle the passion that can so consume the lives of her kids.

I was pretty saddened by this, most especially because I know and adore her kids. Passion is something that they happily have in abundance. I began to think about how that passion is being stamped out of them in school. In my experience, some public schools find little value in the passions of the children they are charged to educate. Instead, they force them to sit in rows, stand in line, keep to themselves, speak only when spoken to. That is, they are compelled to conform to the culture of the school or curriculum and not to make themselves a problem by questioning the prevailing "social structure" of the school. At least two of the children are, in spite of their amazing academic aptitude, struggling somewhat keeping their behavior within the appropriate and acceptable boundaries laid down by the school. So, while they are academically proficient, they still draw the ire of their teachers because they have a hard time sitting still. COULD IT BE THAT THEY'RE BORED?????

I understand and sympathize with the challenges facing our public schools. They are educating HUGE numbers of children and doing it with very limited resources and, in some cases, limited local support. Public school teachers are further hamstrung by standardized testing and a stunted curricula. Local school districts face a multitude of challenges and I applaud anyone who teaches in our public schools. I only wish we could find ways to bring the wonder and passion back into learning. It only takes a LITTLE bit more creativity. Let students have some ownership over their learining space. Let their work and achievements be what is most visible when one walks through the front doors of the school--rather than institutional looking grey walls and teacher-made bulletin boards. Can teachers find the time, while working within the curriculum, to give students assignments that are challenging and fun and aren't just a worksheet ripped from some workbook? Can administrators and teachers keep order and discipline and still allow children to express themselves without shouting them down? I hope that there are more possibilities available to us now than when I was in school.

I don't know... I think I am feeling the pangs of impending fatherhood on the horizon. I am filled with hope for our kids in the world. They have so much to look forward to--why must we rob them of the passion that they are so going to need later in life? Who knows?
End of rant...

5 comments:

hyacinth said...

We had an excellent discussion in class yesterday about public school (esp. kindergarten) and the horrible policies that local schools are adopting (no recess, no talking during lunch, walking in straight lines with arms at the sides down the hall, etc etc etc). Mid-way through the discussion, I read "The Hundred Languages of Children" (you know, that poem by Loris Malaguzzi) out loud and several students started crying -- I could barely hold it together myself. We talked about our childhoods, about our values, about what children "bring to the table" in a school setting and what we meet them at the table with. I really really really hope that it made a difference for at least some of the folks in the class in terms of how they seem themselves as future teachers.

Thanks for sharing this experience from church last night. I wish with all my heart that there were more people like Mandy in the world.

(Um, sorry to go on & on in your blog!)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the rant about the discussion of passion. She's a terrific teacher
with a huge heart and the ability to be
honest.

Susan said...

I enjoyed the rant about the discussion of passion. She's a terrific teacher
with a huge heart and the ability to be
honest.

mollie said...

I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, and I believe that this was one of the reasons my parents chose to homeschool me. While visiting the school where my friend teaches, I overheard a teacher say to her class, "Let's see if we can impress Mrs. So-and-so with how straight our line is!" Why should it matter?

And I think that my family has more passion because of staying home and learning from parents with passion for family, learning, and life.

olivia said...

As a legit ADD-er, I can attest to the fact that often the teacher may not be trying their best to really engage the students. However, even then I would get easily distracted if there was too much going on around me.
I have a friend, http://hipteacher.typepad.com/, who is having her first year as a HS lit teacher and it is amazing to read her about what she goes through. I know she tries everything she can to engage her students, mainly because I know she would hate to become one of the teachers that "allowed" her drop out of HS herself for one year.
But it's true: she has too many students, 6 who are pregnant, not enough supplies (book sharing is a must) and not only does she have to struggle with the students, but also the politics of the HS itself.

I could go on and on about this, but I'll do it on my blog. BTW, I know this blog may be semi-anonymous, but I am curious which church you go to... my boyfriend and church-shopping right now. Thanks!