I’ve walked again in an earlier me, revisiting events and experiences from 10-25 years ago.
I’ve unearthed diaries, letters and other mementos and spent time reading them. It is fascinating to have such a clear record of what I was thinking and feeling so long ago!
It’s good to reflect on how I believe I’ve grown, mellowed and matured over the years since then. But it’s also true that some things just don’t change.
As an example, I thought I’d share a snippet of something I wrote almost 25 years ago – complete with the doodled sketches that graced (dis-graced?) those pages. :)
I think schools are places where we take people with talents and gifts and infinite potential, but mould and slap them into a bunch of ‘average, normal’ people – exuding sameness and conformity. We don’t like the unevenness, you see. Someone who has mountains of skill in one area, and isn’t much good in another is no good. So we try to force him to develop in the not-so-good areas, and in that process often tear down the mountain.
If my view of the schooling process sounds rather cynical – then it is. I often feel that schools have nothing to do with real education. And I’m as guilty as the next teacher, I guess, in not focusing enough on individuals. Though it can be so hard to do when you’re dealing with 27 individuals at once in every classroom … and probably somewhere between 200 to 300 individuals every week, depending on the subjects you’re teaching.
But stuff ‘the system’, I say! Let’s really help kids achieve their full potential! Trouble is, where do I start? What can I do today to stir things up … to change the sameness, challenge the conformity and upset the conveyor belt?
Early mornings must make me more radical than usual. It’s only 7.15 am, and already I’m talking about revolutionising the school system!
God help me! Because probably nobody else will.
Perhaps I’m going mad at this frazzled end of the term …
But it is so frustrating at times. For example .. if this school had really been about educating people and accepting them as individuals with individual needs, then James** possibly wouldn’t have left when he did. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have. It’s just that I think students should have a choice. Not be forced out of formal education by the fact that schools become increasingly meaningless and frustrating for them.
( ** Name changed for privacy reasons.)
At that time I was seven years into what became 20 years of teaching. And as I re-read what I had written then, I found myself smiling – perhaps a little ruefully – as I remembered the passion and the frustration I’d been feeling. I guess that’s one thing that hasn’t changed – my passion for revolutionising the education system.
And I also wonder, all these years later, how much ‘the system’ itself has really changed. Have we managed to get rid of the ‘conveyor belt’ mentality? I don’t think so. “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Trite, but true.
But now, as then, in spite of that I am still full of hope and optimism. There is the possiblity of change.
I am inspired by the stories I hear of dedicated teachers who do care, who do individualise their approach to suit different students, and who do inspire, support and challenge kids to be the very best they can be.
Here’s to those teachers! May they get all the support they need to hang on to their passion – to keep alight that “fire in the belly” – and continue making a difference in our schools and in the world!