I kept staring at them.
.a few had scars showing years of experience.
.some pretty damaged beyond repair.
.all sitting there just waiting for my next move.
As I cut each of those thirty pallets apart, I couldn’t help but continue to draw parallels to kids whose path has crossed mine over eighteen years. Each had a story and none were more important than others.
There were the cracked, broken, seemingly “unsalvageable” boards - those kids who came from broken, struggling homes – I kept wondering, almost obsessively, where that one boy was – I worried about him each day after he left my classroom, seeming so lost, but I wouldn’t give up hope, not even after all these years.
There were those who were perfectly straight and narrow – the kids who knew exactly where they were headed even in third grade. Nothing shocking me about their drive, their plan for their future.
There were some marked and scarred – the kids I found fascinating because they used those scars and turned them to strength. Those silent fighters who turned turmoil into triumph. Maybe I was most fascinated because they are the ones I see in my own school experience.
As I dulled blade after blade, the Hubs rolled his eyes and wasn’t thrilled in the least with my latest adventure. Life with me is like riding the Bullet train ...... on the OUTSIDE!!!! I like things interesting and I don’t mind change. Him? Keep things the same, no changes please. He couldn’t see what I saw in those boards, couldn’t see my vision for the end product of creating a “feature wall”. He just waited - and I’m sure somewhere secretly hoped that just once, one of my crazy plans would fail enough for me to quit coming up with the next one! He seems to forget there’s a driven, crazy woman in the person he married!
After each board was cut, I piled them neatly in the corner, waiting to bring each to its new home. There’s something about the drone of a Saws All – there’s so much time to think, to ponder, to create, to wonder. I felt so connected to this project because as I worked I went through dozens of names in my head, kids that were mine, kids that I fought to help them to their potential. I knew I had a huge job to get each onto a twenty foot long wall and make something beautiful. I was determined and fierce about this job. I knew I had to work carefully and change the plan as I worked in order to get the most from every board – I became more determined and passionate as I placed each board.
Section after section, I stepped back to look carefully at what was forming; changing the plan as I went. Some I needed to take off and rework, while others needed a little nudging or bending to work themselves. Some were where they needed to be, some had to be worked differently. And then it hit me – this is more like education than I even realized. I had one job to do; cover that wall with wood and have amazing things happen in the process to produce a beautiful end product. How I got there wasn’t the focus. I used a little skill and some talent, love for art, a careful eye, and craft to get to the end product. Sometimes it was easier than others, sometimes it got messy, but in the end there was something beautiful.
Isn’t that the job we face each day? We walk into a room filled with kids that carry some mark and it’s up to us to find the beauty and prove they will succeed, no matter the standard, no matter the module or lesson – KIDS are why we’re there. And just like putting that wall together piece by piece, step by step, that’s what we do for kids, we build them up and help them to see the worth and beauty in themselves, to see themselves as lifelong learners.
We are given different children, at different places, with different stories.
We are expected to help them make progress no matter the place they’re at, the baggage they bring.
What scares me about education right now is “sameness” or my current thorn: “similar”.
At what point does this sameness become harmful rather than helpful?
At what point will be able to respect who kids are and the stories that are theirs? Bring kids farther on their journeys while honoring who they are and how they learn? Giving each a unique experience that will help them move further on their path to becoming lifelong learners.
I grew up in a time where the way I learned wasn’t okay. My story was pretty average; middle class “intact” family, two income family, two siblings, a dog and a cat.
But that’s where it ended.
School was hard for me – I vividly remember getting in trouble for doing Math a certain way by tapping on the numbers (that I should have made a fortune off of – known now as Touch Math) and was made to feel like a fool while adding numbers by making tens (hmmm, thanks in advance Singapore for sending me royalties). Drawing what I learned was something I did in secret; I’d make up songs to remember things like the Preamble and prepositions, but did all not chancing a teacher finding out.
Left brained students were encouraged and did exceedingly well; they sat in their rows or spots and listened intently, they crossed all their t’s and dotted each and every i, they scored exceedingly well on standardized tests; it worked for them because that’s the audience teachers taught to.
My right brain and I were left floundering; believing that I wasn’t smart enough because I could NOT sit there for hours on end and “just be quiet and listen” – I thought things through and took them in so many directions, making my own connections, that I missed facts in between.
I believed that I was a dumb kid.
I believed that I wasn’t good enough – to whom? I don’t know, but I was a kid and all I knew was that the experience of school was painful.
I believed I was irreparably damaged.....until I was strong enough to push through and not let people hold me back. I’m so sorry to say that the best day of my own school life was when I walked out of public education, well-earned diploma in hand.
No one cared about my story.
No one looked at my scars, that school itself had caused, and saw strength and triumph, but only damage and defeat. And I still see this with my own kids; the “sameness” continues although we don’t want to see it that way.
And that’s what scares me now heading into a world of modules and sameness. The way I learned, the things I had to do to make sense of my learning were just not okay within the parameters and script my teacher was using. Whole groups and teacher droning just about caused me to lose my mind.
We need to move carefully in this time of such quick change. As my great grandmother used to say – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I’m not the same.
My kids are not the same. Most, not even similar.
Each is unique, each with a story to tell ...... and I feel passionate and responsible and driven to keep pounding away and advocating for each of them.
There are too many stories that have no voice but mine.