How could I not focus my first ever blog post on this topic? Sure, if there was ever a year to ponder the nature of education, schooling, teaching, and learning, this would be it. I have to imagine that Maria Montessori, Paulo Freire, Adeline Tell (my paternal grandmother and a former educator), and even my fictional friend Jo March would have some THOUGHTS. There’s this common phrase that life’s lessons are really taught outside of the classroom. I gotta tell you, that statement bothers me to… no… end.
I hear that and it just sends off this flare of red hot anger through my bloodstream. This is because I have always loved and valued school. To label me a ‘teacher’s pet’ would be an apt descriptor, and I annotated so many Shakespeare sonnets that they probably had to retire my copies from the high school. I am also an educator. I have the privilege of working with extraordinary people who don’t hesitate to postpone a literacy lesson (!) in favor of mediating disagreements amongst friends or providing a sleeve for a teary child. I do know that this type of practice does not happen everywhere; perhaps the aforementioned comments just leaves me feeling defensive. It’s just that I watched as the public trajectory from devotional appreciation to abject apathy towards teachers shifted during this year faster than the time it took the focaccia to rise. I guess I wonder if the ultimate focus should lie in what schooling could be rather than harping on assumptions of what it is not. Or, there needs to be a more intentional and present connection between the hours we spend in school and those that we do not. That I am willing to concede.
Some of the heroines of the stories that I want to share are emboldened in their pursuit for education, in a fervor to open up their world despite insurmountable obstacles. I just never want those desires to have been felt in vein. Don’t get me wrong, their experiences outside the classroom walls are as poignant and saddening and affirming as within. But maybe there’s also a lesson to be felt here for those may take schooling for granted, or provide cause to refocus on what we teachers can impart with those placed in our care.