If you don’t like it, change it

Ivy - Brooklyn, New York
Entered on September 3, 2008

I believe that learning should be an exciting journey through the unknown towards understanding. As a young girl I remember the enthusiasm I had for discovering the world around me, and the time I spent questioning how and why it worked. Everything held a meaning and history, from the origin of a funny sounding word to the story of when and why the beautiful National Parks of my small city were constructed. I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with a deep thirst for knowledge, which I have actively and independently sought throughout my life. It is this proactive nature that ultimately led me away from traditional schooling, as I felt that it was failing me, robbing me of my passion and enthusiasm and instilling a disdain for the “educational institution” at large that I didn’t want to believe was deserved. In a passage from my college application essay, I described this dissatisfaction: “First period, English. Once my favorite subject, I am now faced with a quote test on Macbeth. Let me reiterate: English, Shakespeare, Macbeth, oh English majors everywhere drool with envy! However, the rich language and timelessness of plot have been all but completely ignored as the class begins a crass evaluation of their knowledge by playing connect the dots and match the correct pairs. I could feel the heat rising in my face. If you don’t like it, change it.” This is something that my mother would say to me in response to any and every complaint that came her way, and something for which I will be forever grateful to her. It is with that attitude of self-empowerment that I transferred to a small, strange-sounding school called the Alternative Community School, and the experience I had as a student there is the reason I am now pursuing a career in education. I applied to ACS in the Ithaca High School guidance office, mid-quote test. It is an action I took for which I will forever thank my mother. I have re-learned and fine-tuned Loud Child, and she speaks with the clarity, conviction and enthusiasm all education should induce. ACS used a graduation by exhibition and portfolio system, which means that teachers wrote in-depth evaluations of student progress, and students developed a portfolio of work, which included a wellness plan, a personal reflection on schooling, two documented career explorations, sixty hours of community service, and a senior project which could be anything from fixing a computer to choreographing a full scale dance performance. These requirements got us involved in our communities, and validated us as individuals by giving us the opportunity to seriously pursue our own interests. Because schools like this exist and because I went to one, I have the hope, energy and conviction to teach. I believe that all children should find this world fascinating, because it truly is, and it is my deepest desire as an educator to make them eager to learn in the same way that I was.