As my friends know, and and I sometimes share in my writing, I have a lot of pet peeves about the education system. Too many to even begin. The gross inequality in the gender/race/income gap,the way social-emotional learning and play is ignored in public schools – or overemphasized in private more privileged areas. Our culture walks in extremes, and raises its children to do the same. It makes my head spin, and pretty much every single person with a conscious out there teaching today. I’ve made…A LOT of mistakes and forgiven myself for most of them. Why? I don’t know what else to do – the system is totally rigged for its winners and losers on every front and it leaves even an intentional educator powerless.
I keep reacting against the belief that I need to “pay my dues” in my career to show what I know. So listen – I come from a family of teachers and I’ve been going to school my whole life. Then I worked in schools serving the children of agricultural farmers in rural China. Then I worked with vulnerable immigrant populations in DC. Then I got a job acting as a silly Mad Scientist in front of the children in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the entire country. I’m going to keep going, integrating these experiences, and may I be naive to say, but nothing has or will stop me in dedicating my life to the pursuit of freeing our education system and the children it intends to serve.
The thing that always strikes me the most is the children who are angels (whether you believe that literally or metaphorically 😉 😉) will usually either 1) win some type of useless trophy for “good behavior” 2) be told the total opposite and be shamed for any form of self-expression that goes against the norm OR 3) go completely unnoticed.
Sorry, there’s no “good job” at the end of the day from most aspects of life. There’s no reason to be ashamed of who and what you are either. The internal lives of children MATTER.
Let me go on.
There’s nothing that peeves me more than hearing about “the left out one.”
Hearing teachers who say he/she doesn’t make friends well because “They went to a different school,” or “Don’t speak the same language as the other kids,” or “Just have a hard time making friends” is so disheartening because as grown-ups we can do better to teach children what really including someone looks like.
On a personal level, it triggers me a lot because many of us, if not all of us, really being “the left out one” at some point. I know for me it began in 3rd grade when I started going to a youth group at my church that I knew I could never fit into because I went to a different school than the other kids. As small as it may have been to the adults around meat the time, it was very painful to me because no took the time to understand my internal experience, validate it, and show me ways to make friends that I did not know how to relate to. I remember feeling it was my fault that “no one wanted to talk to me,” and from there on blamed myself for not having friends due to some moral issue with my personality. Now, I consider myself confident and I love making new friends, but this fear still resides at a deeper level when I’m thrown into a new situation, which I’m prone to do in my love for adventure and new experiences.
When I hear adults judging, rather than understanding the child, or encouraging the child to be “more outgoing” or just say “go play!” – I really cringe. Rarely do they stand by the child, walk with them, and offer them ways to make friends.And I don’t care if your class as 10 kids or 55 – I’ve really taught in both extremes and it always happens!
I love being the liaison between “the left out one” and the world they want to be a part of so badly. It doesn’t take much. Just standing next to the child and walking up to a group of new friends with them can be enough. Showing them questions they can ask to show there’s no reason to be afraid of someone else, or anything really. All you need to do is ask questions. And “Hi. What’s your name?” is usually a good place to start.
It’s not that hard, but for some reason our whole life we’re conditioned to believe that it is. Now all this stuff about “healing your inner child” or “authentic relating” is popping up as a buzz word, at least among some echelon of our culture. It’s cool, but I don’t really get it totally. Maybe because it’s still reserved for the privileged few, or may people don’t realize how messed up school was in conditioning them to be competitive, separate, and disconnected from the people around them. To not been seen. What if we tried this — Raise children who don’t have to recover from their childhoods?