I am a teacher.
I have been teaching for 22 years, although I am still active in education it has been 13 since I have last been in front of a group of students in a classroom. When I was in the classroom I think that I was an excellent teacher. Every year, at the end of June, when we were making the classes for the next year there were letters from parents requesting that their children be placed in my classroom.
I can't think of a bigger compliment than that.
I was a creative teacher. I strayed from the curriculum from time to time. Perhaps a lot.
My students might not have known who fought for the British or the Americans in the War of 1812 but they could think. They learned to love learning and to appreciate it as a life-long endeavour.
We laughed. Dear lord, how we laughed.
Even in grade 8.
I refused to tell them the answer but rather showed them how to discover answers for themselves and then how to evaluate multiple solutions to determine an appropriate course of action.
Some of my teaching partners taught their students how to write examinations so that they would be ready for high school. It did not make me popular with my colleagues but I refused to do this. Yet when the students all went off to high school my students always did better on the examinations than the students who were in the other classes.
One of my teaching partners and I believed that grade eight had to be fun . . . it might be the last time these children had to be children; kids face so much pressure today to grow up before they are ready for it. A childhood is too precious a thing to be lost.
One year our grade eight students staged a sit-in and refused to leave the school at the end of the year. They sat in the hall on that last day chanting 'hell no, we won't go!'
Some of these same kids, with children of their own now, still call me up and ask me to drinks.
When we were visiting our friend Palma last week she and I were talking about when we were teachers and we discovered that we had a similar philosophy. We valued education for the wonderful thing that it is and spoke of the fun we had nurturing a group of students on their way to becoming free-thinking, creative adults.
Public education was the one great hope that ALL kids had for success; not just those lucky children who had parents with a huge pay cheque.
We both talked about how we couldn't survive in the classrooms of today.
Teachers, once seen as heroes, are now the scapegoat for society's ills. Schools focus on a narrow measure of academic success, they prepare students for tests that in one short sitting, determine many aspects of their futures.
There is less time for creativity, the arts, problem solving, critical thought, fun . . . play.
My friend Amy posted this trailer for a documentary "The Race to Nowhere" on facebook tonight. It struck home with me. It really speaks to the problem facing schools today. Sure things are NOWHERE as bad in Canada as they are in the US right now but it sure makes you think.
Dear lord, how I worry about ufture generations and how they will face the increasing complex problems that are bound to come their way!