Thirty two years ago, I was teaching 5th grade at a public school in Utah. I loved and adored each student. I invested myself into making each day, each subject, as meaningful as I could. I myself had a newborn baby at home and I felt conflicted. Oh, how I wanted to be home with my baby, raising him, holding him, singing to and teaching him. But I was told, and tried to agree, and honestly didn’t know another way around, teaching another year. Nevertheless, I made each moment in the classroom count, each interaction with each student meaningful. I saw their eyes light up. I witnessed the enthusiasm, the camaraderie, the buzz of connection on their partner projects, their artwork, even their spelling and math assignments. I thrilled to be a part of their lives and laying the foundation for when they would continue beyond our shared adventures.
one early morning, the principal entered the room. I was silently crying, feeling sad and trapped. Report cards were nearly due and the percentages for many of my students did not reflect the effort and focus that they had been investing in their schoolwork. I was required to grade on a scale and knew that those numbers would not convey the accuracy of the joy and learning that had taken place. Seeing me thus, the principal respectfully asked me what had happened. I explained my dilemma. Compassionately, he helped me then devise a plan which I proceeded to undertake that very day.
I gave the students a “pop quiz.”
My questions were about them and how they felt and related to the subject matter. The purpose was to collect sufficient points to contribute to what they already had so that I could augment their scores and their grades.
Additionally, I invested as much feeling and validation as I could into the comments section of their reports.
This allowed me to continue forward as required while feeling more integrous and more able to validate each child as I so wished.
That was thirty two years ago.
Following that year, I embarked with my own children (who eventually numbered ten) as we experimented with myriad forms of educational opportunities. I home-schooled my children at times. For a few years I founded a small private school so that we could expand their opportunities for social interaction, projects, discussion, mentors and fun.
Thirteen years ago, following my divorce, I entered back into the public school arena and was stunned at the profound changes that had been mandated in public education since I had stepped away. Especially after my vast research and experimentation, augmented by that which had been revealed to me as “the education for the millennium,” I felt like I had landed back into a world that had turned alien and was taking a nose-dive fast.
After that short stint in a public charter school, I went back to providing my own solution; this time for the youngest, as a daycare-preschool provider within my own home. Those two and a half years with the precious youngest, I was able to participate in many soul-stirring “miracles” as I applied correct principles. When that chapter came to an end at my call to “sell all that I had, I was needed in South America,” I did just that. Continuing since then, I have seen and experienced much; but I have yet to see and implement the fullness that my heart desires in the realm of education.
For many, a new school year has, or is just about ready, to begin again. My youngest, a thirteen-year-old is among the many preparing to jump in for another year. In a new school this year, a new district, the sobering news is that last year in her high school, six students took their own lives. Many are already addicted to “legal” drugs to help them be able to “cope,” to “think,” to be able to “sit still.” Others have so much silent trauma in their minds that the act of education is a farce. How many others, besides those six “successful,” have considered or attempted ending it all? How many are there to really learn academics… because they want to be there? And, for what purpose? Are they stimulated from a joy of learning, to prepare to more fully offer their unique contribution to society? Will their eyes sparkle with the eager determined innocence they held when learning to crawl or walk or speak?
Nevertheless, as the two of us venture out, I sense the excitement, the anticipation and hope from those with whom we interact. Maybe this time, this year, a miracle will ensue. Maybe the synergistic blend of students’ needs and personalities, materials, curriculum, teacher, the agenda, will magically produce the desired outcome…. Maybe. But, maybe not.
In an industry where many of the teachers (especially elementary teachers) are profoundly compassionate, caring people, who naturally gravitate to their jobs precisely because they DO CARE, there is tremendous stress and burn out. Some teachers, especially beginning teachers, may put in from 12-15 hours EACH DAY, round the clock, just to fulfill all the requirements demanded of them. In the last few decades, as more and more and more has been implemented in attempts to “fix the problems” and “get our students educated,” and as more and more is constantly invented and devised and mandated, the list of requirements has grown and grown and grown.
These requirements come from a myriad of places. Some are written into her contract and stem from the national government, some come from the state, some from the district, the individual school, the parents, the other faculty members and its organizational assignments, the very students themselves, and lastly (yet most importantly)… the teacher’s own heart and attempts to creatively do the best that she is able.
Gone are the days of “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Now, the job description includes: correcting disruptive behavior, observing for signs of abuse, monitoring their clothing, checking their backpacks for weapons, waging war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, raising their sense of self esteem and personal pride, teaching patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, good manners, respect for authority, how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job, checking their heads for lice, recognizing signs of “handicap,” making sure that they all pass the national exams, state exams, district exams, school exams, curriculum exams, providing them with an “equal” education regardless of their personal situation, communicating regularly with their parents by letter, telephone, e-mail, personal visits, and report card.
Those listed (and more) are IN ADDITION TO the vastly increased “ACADEMIC” load that now goes farrrrrr beyond “reading, writing and arithmetic!”
Although districts and classrooms vary widely, with some having all the latest supplies and gadgets, teachers are required to fulfill all the above with a whiteboard and marker, a few books and desks, a big smile, and a salary that qualifies them for one of the “lowest rungs on economy’s ladder.”
In today’s current educational system, RARELY does a child learn how to think logically, compassionately, treat all others with equity and kindness in all situations, understand and passionately use his own body to explore his own unique compelling interests; in other words, live the life that he is capable of living. He, shortly following birth, is snared into a similar treadmill as his parents: Spend your days living someone ELSE’s requirements for you, in the hope that one day you can be a contributing adult and make your own decisions, have your own life, and finally, REALLY do what you want. However, that hope is elusive, because the same trap that put him on society’s treadmill KEEPS him there as an adult. He is NOT freed, but finds that the treadmill has speeded UP.
Not only have all the requirements for “getting” (or “giving”) an education shifted in the last several decades, but, the children themselves are shifting BIG TIME. Though, perhaps, very similar innately to children of a hundred years ago, WHY IS THERE AN EPIDEMIC, suddenly, of ADD, ADHD, AUTISM, “learning disorders” of all kinds? And, most importantly, WHY THE PANDEMIC OF DIS-RESPECT?! Why DON’T children just (naturally) thrill with all that is provided them by the teacher and administrators who are busting their butts off for THEM?
Many teachers today have become, literally, wizards of manipulation and enigma, feeling compelled to devise myriad ways to creatively and compulsively MAKE THE CHILD LEARN. One of the most discussed items in school meetings and educational literature is how to “motivate them to WANT to learn.” Well, guess what?! The human being was “programmed” with a love for learning! In fact, it MUST learn, or it starts to die.
It was this very nature that drove that child to (without any formalized class) learn how to make understandable sounds and words, acquiring his culture’s language easily and readily. Without any authorized “physical therapy,” children (in their “natural” state) propel themselves to use their bodies to ambulate to greater and greater proficiency. Reaching for an object, scooting, crawling, standing, cruising, walking, running, climbing, etc. are all naturally fulfilled through his innate NEED to learn and become social; each child in their own unique way and time table.
Somehow, each of us FINDS the motivation for doing those things we are passionately interested in. We KNOW when we have found them when we lose all sense of time and appetite and become totally engrossed in the moment and what we are doing. How many teachers have seen a child either staring out of the window during a lesson, disinterested or distracting others, only to be completely engaged when the subject and experience is of THEIR design and interest?
Children are a “barometer” to the energy or feelings exuded in any situation. Without even being consciously aware, they act out on the stress and imbalance in the family, world, and, of course, classroom. Children CAN NOT LEARN except in a peaceful yet stimulating environment. The brain was created to connect neurons with a peaceful focus and desire FROM WITHIN to remember. In an environment of compulsion and stress and imbalance of any kind, a child develops “dyslexias” [mental “blocks”] (to reading, writing, drawing, singing, dancing, whatever the “forced curriculum” that he feels resistance to!) The easiest way to resist becomes “I Can’t….!” Once that thought has been offered (strongly enough), the brain complies… often for life.
Many, many, many children (okay, almost 100% today), come from homes where there is stress. These children feel deeply and thus, act out on the stress. Why the stress??? Gone are the simple days of the family working together on either the farm, small shop or inside the home and being more or less content with their lives. Gone are the days of “an orange for Christmas.” Gone are the days of knowing that one needed not much but the bare necessities of life–to be HAPPY.
Increasingly pumped in to every home, mind and heart is the promulgated command to “buy more, do more, have more, be more” (the “more” implying more and better than you had previously, AND “more” than the “neighbor” has). Most adults cram as much today into their lives and day and mind as they possibly can. (Got to get as many checkmarks on their planner for the day as possible!) Bigger, better, fancier, costlier, tastier, newer, more, parties, clothes, food, car, house, on and on and on.
As one bright idea is acted upon by one “wise one”/person, it just adds to the possibilities of what CAN be “done” by the rest of humanity, thus adding to the potential stress of everyone else in the shared culture as they each struggle to rise to the (now raised further) “top of the pack”… getting nowhere in reality, but merely adding more discontent to their own lives.
One of the most flagrant ways that we add stress and imbalance to our children’s lives is by “feeding” them “crap” that wrecks havoc with their growing minds and bodies AND EMOTIONS, destroying their desire AND ABILITY to learn, think, creatively reason and imagine, socialize, instead of offering the natural, fresh-from-the-field REAL foods provided by nature.
For the few wealthy and those very committed to the “education” of their child there may be the possibility to hire maids, tutors, provide additional classes and, perhaps, even spend more time WITH their child. Any of these where the child is able to experience happiness (which comes from balanced, peaceful, interaction) is going to help the child to follow his parent’s modeling and help him to fit in to the mold of requirements–perhaps even make it to the top and, if the parent is REALLY “lucky,” make the parent LOOK GOOD, thus helping THE PARENT up his own “ladder of (perceived) success.”
Most parents, however, do not have the means to provide extra time, money, classes, etc. for their child’s “education.” They are living off of adrenaline, caffeine and drugs themselves and just trying to make it to the next paycheck, wondering all the time, how in the heck can they meet all the demands placed upon them??? Some struggle with the hopelessness and despair (and self-condemnation) of not even being able to find a job and make any attempt to provide the basic necessities for those who are dependent upon them. This can be an incredibly depressing, stress-filled life; a life without LASTING hope.
The current educational system does NOT work. NO bandage can be applied that will fix it. Expecting more from parents or teachers is NOT the answer. Mandating more from our children will just exacerbate their stress and increase the numbers who are finding their own way out. Nothing more can be added to the mix to be the magician to cement all the other variables into a working, coherent order. It is nearing the process of crumbling to the final dust and memories (with plenty of explosions along the way).
Is There NO HOPE?
As a child is in simplicity and respect allowed to continue to freely act upon his inner desire to learn and socialize (as when he was tiny and before any mandated learning situation was enforced), he WILL master his ability to communicate, master the movement of his body, master his inner voice that compels him into his own passionate direction of exploration. The irony is that a child WILL, when propelled from within with the need to share with others, learn the “reading, writing and arithmetic” THAT HE NEEDS to do so. As we are social beings BY NATURE, this need to communicate accurately is shown to the child in his natural learning environment by his own inner desire to do so. He finds (easily, rapidly, inexpensively) the way to learn language, math, social skills FOR HIMSELF. In the process of honoring the uniqueness and desires to learn and create of each individual child, he will bring forth masterpieces unimagined by society before (in literature, math, science, art, music, dance, etc.)
There ARE some forward thinkers who have proposed and implemented educational situations that are more in line with the true nature of learning. These have met with varying “success” and acceptance. But, what does this do in reality? There is more of a financial and emotional drain on the parents who have chosen those options, often with more time and stress involved for the parent. Those parents who would love to choose another option besides the neighborhood school for their child but can’t for one reason or another, feel even more inept… thus contributing that additional stress to their child’s world and out into the friction of shared society. And what does this do to the child who views the boy down the street as receiving this “better” education? This does nothing but add IMBALANCE, inequality and stress to the entire culture in the long run.
The children deserve sooo much better. The parents deserve so much better. Those who desire to assist children learn (a.k.a. “teachers”) deserve so much better. Indeed… all of Society deserves so much better.
A world, culture, neighborhood, family out of balance will NOT bring a balanced, harmonious, TRULY “successful” life of learning, being, and interacting to ANY child. Nor will society benefit by increasing the natural intelligence when a child is schooled for “smarts.” Intelligence and smarts are far from equal.
But, until the day that enough individuals join together, fully resolved to level all still existing structures and endorsed ways to do things (including the belief structures in the mind)… we will merely continue to see more decay. More “correction facilities” built for those who are strong enough in their own hearts and minds to say “NO!!! This is NOT working for me!” and thus acting out, possibly, in ways that are very contrary to the parameters established by society. We will continue to see more tutoring options and alternative organizations established. We will continue to see more “gifted” programs, more “special–” programs. We will continue to see an INCREASE in drug use (both legal and illicit) to “help” children “deal with their problems” and to make it through their mandated day. We will continue to have our hopes brightened, only to be dashed as we (at some point) realize that that in which we placed the hope did not live up to our anticipated results.
Oh, how I long to be able to implement the vision that I was given to revolutionize education back in 1997. Oh, how I long to see return the wonder, the sparkle, the freshness and life to learning. The time has come to dismantle a structure that works well for no one. A new foundation, based upon equal respect for all and the natural principles for learning can be implemented to begin to see immediate, long term, positive results… for everyone; principles that will allow our children to creatively engage in the learning process for life and to fulfill the inner drive in their eager minds, preparing for their empowered places in a healthy society as the inherently INTELLIGENT BEINGS that they are. Bringing forth the curriculum within each child’s own heart; THIS is the answer that education has been waiting for. This is the ONLY solution that is not a mere bandage but a permanent healing. For the CHILDREN. For SOCIETY. For Mother Earth.
In my pursuit of Real Truth, I have given up everything. Crawling through the “eye of the needle,” I have learned the *mysteries* and am now giving my life to assist YOU to dis-cover Who *YOU* really are, along with your unique gift to offer humanity. As you learn to seek (in the right place and with purified intent), you WILL find treasures of lasting value, along with every promised reward. Together, we will establish a society of humane beings and live life ALIVE, on PURPOSE, and with a sociality unequaled… because we will each BE and view each other as equally and profoundly DIVINE! Please… catch this Hope and Vision and join with me.