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The Door is Right There

Our son Everest started a one week camp today.   Last summer we took him to science camp on the local college campus and had a similar experience to today in that so much of running a school is about managing the children and keeping things in order.

When he arrived today, all the kids were standing on line and our son walked straight up to head in the door, the teacher stopped him saying.  “Get to the back of the line Everest.”  To which my son replied, “But the door is right there.”

Yes, exactly, the door is right there.

This takes me immediately back in my own mind to Catholic grade school when we were kept on the playground waiting to go into the school each morning, no matter what the weather unless it rained.

I remember days with teeth chattering, trying to stand stock still after the bell rang to go in.   We had to wait for our teachers to get us, and then follow them quietly, single file inside.   If we dared to talk, giggle, move out of line or do it in a manner not serious enough we were marched outside.   I remember one day when the principal came on the speaker to tell the entire school to do it again, so out we marched into the freezing cold and waited until there was not one peep before going inside.

What was that all about anyway, and why in the year 2010, is my son being told to stand on line to go inside?

Inside the teacher lectured and my son lay down on the floor, and was asked to sit up cross-legged.  When he lingered on a project he was interested in, she called him to come back to the group and move on.

These kinds of things teachers do because they feel they make for good attentive students, but how can they know this? What if a child has a lot of kinetic energy and just needs to move around? What if lying down feels comforting as they hear something and puts them into a receptive space?  They aren’t making these rules based on rigorous psychological study but rather on some rigid set of rules designed by no one knows.

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

Last summer I experienced the same sort of nonsense when taking our son to the science summer classes.  They spent most of their time telling kids to “raise their hands” to sit a certain way, to not move.   It was easily fifty percent classroom management.   When my son chose to sit on my lap (instead of the circle) looks were exchanged between the teaching team.    When we went outside and my son chose not to play the game that the teachers made up, more exchanged looks.

There is such a judgement for tuning into your own child and not forcing them to do things that simply don’t matter.  There is a judgement for simply not doing things like others which is very strange when at it’s heart American culture knows that the best thinkers and most creative people walk to the beat of a different drummer.

So why this discrepancy in learning?  Just as I said it’s all about classroom management, not about the needs of your individual child.

To me to allow him to question why, and to start a life outside the box is important though.  From my own experience I know full well that sitting quietly and paying attention for seven hours a day can be somewhat torturous.  At an early age I started feeling anxiety each time the teachers reprimanded students for “acting out”.   I’m talking about child things, giggling, talking, telling stories.

The question is, what is our education system all about?  Is is about making perfect little soldiers for the cubicle work place, or is it about teaching children and feeding their curiosity and creativity?

The truth is that it is a Managed experience for kids because so much of our culture is designed to let parents go to work from 9-6, and keep the children occupied and out of trouble during that time.

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When I think back upon my years in grammar school and high-school I remember a lot of hours I wish I didn’t spend my life.   In many ways it mirrors the adult 9-6 job (except it starts earlier) that I would go on to live dutifully later on.

It wasn’t until college that I truly felt free and loved learning, and why not?  School was taking classes at the time I chose, and even the semester I chose.  If I wanted a Saturday class, then good for me.  If I liked night classes, then that might work best towards my night-owl nature.

The question is, with so many students dropping out, not performing well in school and not going on to college, when will people see that something is truly upside down in our education system?

Why shouldn’t high-school be four days a week, with classes when the student chooses?  For that matter why can’t grammar school be the same way?  Send our kids to a class that is more structured like college?  It could be twice a week and a limited amount of those “sitting in your seat quietly” hours.

We have such an all or nothing system in place that it is difficult to find anything that doesn’t sound heavily influenced by “school” with all it’s rigidity because typically those teachers are coming from schools and setting up summer programs, or perhaps they are studying for their teaching degree and they are only repeating the rigid mantra they have learned.

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The truth is there are many ways to teach.  One way I teach our son is by telling these big tales about outer-space.  The characters visit every planet and dwarf planet on their adventures.  I never ask my son to memorize facts about the planets. I don’t lecture to him about black holes and gravity yet all these things are in our stories which have grown into a creative universe of our own that he remembers intricate details about, and more importantly that has helped feed his ravenous appetite for all things related to science and outerspace.

Isn’t learning about inspiring the student rather than rigidly managing them?

To be truthful I don’t even believe in that in the work place, and places like Google also keep this in mind letting employees work one day a week on projects dear to their heart.

My wife took my son to the camp today, and at some point my son decided it was time to leave so they didn’t stay for the entire class and yet he is still excited to go back tomorrow.    He knows his rhythm, and he stayed as long as he was engaged and then he moved on to do other things.  The question is, why do we expect school and activities to go all day?  Is that the right rhythm?

Everest didn’t wait on line to go back out that door, and why would he, after all, the door was right there.

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Daev Finn is an artist, illustrator, writer, visual effects artist, and video game developer, whose work can best be seen as Aslan in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Daev lives in Colorado with his two sons Everest and Asher, and his wife Sheryl Paul, author of The Conscious Bride, and The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner.

http://www.daevfinnstudio.com http://www.sherylpaul.wordpress.com

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