Friday, March 18, 2011

I used to hate school....maybe I still do

    I remember in middle school my friends and I had a countdown to graduation. It wasn't a countdown because we were proud of graduating, but more because we hated being in middle school. It wasn't because I hated my friends or had problems socially, but rather because I was absolutely bored and unchallenged. I never remember having student choice or doing anything other than outlines and worksheets. While the school community included many amazing people who cared for the students (of which I am infinitively thankful), I learned how to win at the game of school. I learned how to be what the teachers wanted, I learned how to memorize things quickly and I learned that schooling was just something that had to be tolerated.

     Flash forward to high school and nothing changed except my learning habits got worse. As the pressure increased, I was able to keep the stress down because I became a heck of a cheater. I knew that to win the game, I simply had to get good marks and keep put of trouble. Looking back, I don't think I was even cheating myself because I didn't see a value in any of that information and I was rarely asked to really analyze it or add something to it. I had a few teachers who challenged me to discourse and debate and I have since thanked them, but most of the time I sat there and thought of ways to beat the system. As I moved through high school, I became more and more sick of school and even got into some pretty big trouble, but in the end I was able to memorize enough equations and answers to make it to college.

    In college, a funny thing happened. I was surrounded by a bunch of people that had read books and traveled not because they had to, but because they wanted to. I had roommates that fiddled on the computer for hours just trying to figure something out. I was exposed to research that was truly remarkable. In effect, I became exposed to real learning. I had professors that put on syllabi "optional books". Occasionally, I would pick one up and read a few pages. Not because I had to, but because I wanted too. I traveled abroad and learned about a whole new culture. I got to choose the classes I wanted. Throughout the course of four years I started to see that I loved learning not school (or maybe it was the way school was constructed). I loved the people I was around and most of the time I liked my teachers, I just didn't like the system. That is when I got the idea to become a teacher. Why can't school be fun? Why can't we be excited to learn in school? Why can't I make a difference?

    I continued to take this approach in grad school. Sometimes I wouldn't do trivial assignments because I was researching something else. Maybe I wouldn't do all the assigned reading, but I was picking the teacher's brains for ideas and philosophy. My peers would ask me why I didn't care as much about the grade. I used to think it was my hubris, but now I know it is because I love learning and that other stuff is just well stuff.

    So as I start and continue my teaching career, I approach teaching in a way that stresses learning as much as possible. And yet schools are not constructed for this. They are constructed for competition, for mindless memorizing, for sheer control and power. Not all schools are like this, but we have institutional and political pressure for most to be like that. We are designing schools that are made for people to hate. I am very lucky that I love my students, the place I work, and learning. I found a great place where we constantly strive to make school different, but I know many people aren't this lucky.

So do I still "hate" school? Maybe not. What I really hate are some people's notions of what school is!


  1. WOW! What an amazing post. Every sentence rings true! I also am fortunate to be able to love what I do and do what I love! Cheers

  2. Thanks for the comment! I am lucky I stumbled unto this field because it is amazing

  3. Agreed. Maybe is has something to do with (most) of our universities in America being tops in the world, but college is where I hit my stride too. Now, if we could just get the steps beforehand to catch up...

  4. I love forward to reading what you comeup with in your work...& hopefully in your job..Keep updating..
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