119. My Third Grade Teacher
My third grade teacher certainly encouraged creativity. I spent most of the day creatively working out how to avoid school.
She also encouraged imagination. Yes, as I sat there staring into the void that was our home room, epic adventures were played out in my head!
Kinesthetic learning games were certainly fostered at Vanderhoof Elementary! My third grade teacher experimented with alternative learning uniquely tailored to my inclination by literally tying me to my chair!
Physical Education was especially strong. I set the record for running away from school!
Art was fun! I discovered you could jam the teacher’s pencil sharpener with very beautiful colored crayons. Plus, Plaster of Paris can be used for all kinds of multi-media projects not covered in class!
Math and science were taught with emphasis on practical application! I discovered that if you stick a pencil in an electrical outlet, something really exciting happens. I also knew exactly how many steps it was to the principal’s office and came to understand the aerodynamic engineering of his “special paddle”!
This was the enlightened education movement of the late nineteen sixties!
There was one teacher in our school who truly loved switching children on to learning. His name was Mr. C. I remember really enjoying his science class. We got to act out parts of a cell, put on shows, pretend we were future scientists, make up songs, learn with tactile tools that we built, do experiments that we made up… I remember being excited about learning when we were with him! Then one day, no more Mr. C! We found out later that he got fired for smoking with somebody named Mary Jane. It was all very confusing.
I’ve forgiven my third grade teacher many times over. Even then I remember feeling sympathetic for her. But I was one of those uncontrollable boys who needed to learn on his feet! Today that little boy would have been diagnosed, labeled and probably medicated.
The real question now is: how have we moved on?
I was deeply moved by our oldest son years ago, when we moved states and had to transfer him from an arts integrated charter school to a conventional public school. He went from a 3rd grade class where their entire semester was immersed in Homer’s Odyssey – integrating Ancient Greek mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, mythology, custom and culture – to a classroom of desks set up in rows, subjects taught in disconnected irrelevance by a stressed out teacher who resorted to punishment and reward behavioral conditioning as if that were the expected standard. This was 2004!
When we asked our son how it was going, this is exactly what he said: “This school is draining the learning out of me. It’s worse than watching TV!”
Thank goodness, we rescued him from that situation. But we were left with the haunting and unsettling feeling which continues to fuel our defiance and passion as educators and as parents! It is comforting to know we are not alone in this. We are part of a movement made up of teachers and parents all over the world who passionately devote our lives, to being part of an “education revolution”, to borrow the phrase from Sir Ken Robinson.
The true ‘revolution’ begins on the inside…
We Humans know how to learn! It is the most natural of things! We don’t need bureaucrats dictating that to us. But… we do need teachers who train and believe in a connected and holistic way of education and schools that create the safe circumstance for it to happen!
To all the third grade teachers out there who truly love teaching children and believe in our natural ability to learn, I salute your passion!
“I never let schooling interfere with my education.” -Mark Twain
“Experience is the best teacher, but the tuition is high.” -Norwegian Proverb