This I Believe

Kim - Casper, Wyoming
Entered on October 18, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Education and Being a Learner

To start this exercise I brainstormed over a dozen thematic items and eventually settled on one. I thought of things like living every moment but when it’s time to nap … time to dream deeply; laughter; jumping in the raked pile of leaves; pain is a symptom of greater hurt or triumph, but none of those really excited me as fighting for the underdog. Sometimes I think I take the weaker side because I’ve felt like I’ve been there so often and it would have been nice to know I had help.

The first time I remember being on the short end of the stick was early in elementary school as a student challenged in hearing particular sounds. Apparently I talked funny because I couldn’t hear s, ch, sh, z and other similar sounds. I didn’t like being pulled out of class. Later in secondary school I wondered why it felt like I was labeled as average and not allowed to be in some upper level courses. I hardly ever missed a day, and yet there were so many days like I felt like I was waiting for something better. My parents didn’t care for parent/teacher conferences. They heard the same thing from my teachers, “Kim always wants to know why we are doing activity X and then she comes up with trying a different way.”

I think of our students as underdogs in our educational system. So many of our scholars don’t achieve at a level they should. Pretty much all of our youth should be valedictorians. Why don’t we find better ways to engage kids, and even adults, in their learning? Why can’t learning be fun? I adopted this mantra at an early age and it makes sense to make good on my tendency to champion those who don’t have a voice. Why don’t we follow up on Dewey’s idea of the democratic classroom, or better yet, a whole system?

Through my work in education I believe I’ve started along this mission. When young scholars wanted to do an alternative assignment, I blessed the suggestion with great warmth and a smile. Out of the box thinking is key. We auctioned off candy bars and sodas to demonstrate cost, supply and demand. I worked the same angle when integrating technology and primary sources in working with our district’s social studies teachers. Currently the same characteristics emerge in championing the social and emotional learnings of all of our kids as well as their safety.

As I think of the answers posed by my own questions, I address the other items on the list I threw down to start this reflection: creative problem solving, laughter, sharing, not accepting all limits, adrenaline rushes, balance and working towards the greater good. The only item I couldn’t fit in was jumping in a raked pile of leaves. Maybe that’s an integrated class of PE and Science? Guess we’ll see.