The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders.
— John Taylor Gatto
Nick and I are huddled with his teacher, Dante, in the Fern Hill crafts dome.
“So,” says Dante to Nick, “You want a meeting with Jay, so you can tell him how you’re feeling?”
Since his run-in with his friend Jay this morning, how Nick is feeling is rotten. It’s pretty much been the curriculum today.
“You tell,” Nick says to me.
In matters of feeling, Nick often asks me to be his spokesman.
“Well,” says Dante, “I don’t think your dad should be at this meeting. Jay doesn’t have a parent with him, so it might feel like a gang-up if your dad comes.”
It takes some persuading, but Nick finally agrees. He and Dante go off to find Jay. I retreat to the steps by the front gate to wait.
After the first post in this series, a reader, Pauline Gaines, of perilsofdivorcedpauline, left this comment:
My daughter is in 4th grade at a progressive school — not as free-spirited as Fern Hill, but it’s the same general idea. I went to a rigorous, pressure-cooker K-12 school so wanted something different for my kids. Not sure I did the right thing…I worry that my daughter is behind academically, but am relieved to see her flourish emotionally and socially. I hope that the social-emotional piece will put her on solid ground for secondary school, when she’s going to have to learn to do things in a more traditional manner.
I responded to Pauline by referring to a talk on changing educational paradigms by Sir Kenneth Robinson. The talk is eleven minutes, and it’s cleverly animated—you never see Sir Ken, just the hand of an artist representing the ideas he touches on.
I embedded the talk in a previous post a year ago, but I consider it so important, so mind-blowing, and so germane here that I’m embedding it now as well. One of the things the talk makes apparent is that respecting the individuality of a child is so radical a thing that it becomes a political act. If you haven’t seen this and you care about educating kids, may I suggest that you bookmark it and come back to watch when you have eleven minutes:
IT TAKES WHAT IT TAKES
At the gate, I’m alone with my thoughts. Half an hour goes by. I think thoughts about education, about this school, about all school, about un-school. I think thoughts about Nick and his future, and about choices Nora and I have made for him.
I think about the Ken Robinson talk, how it gets me fed up and fired up. And I think about how when Nick has a problem, all theories and ideas and thoughts fly out the window, and there is only that problem, only the reality of Nick.
Dante appears, sans Nick.
“How’d it go?” I say.
“Really well,” says Dante. “Jay told Nick how he felt kicked when he was down, how what Nick said didn’t work for him, how he needed Nick to just listen.”
“What did Nick say?”
“He had a really hard time telling Jay his feelings. But he finally got it out. It really didn’t work for him to be called “loser” and to have Jay say, “I hate you.”
“Where are they now?”
“In the primary room. Drawing robots.”
“So that’s it?”
Until the next problem.
So it goes when the curriculum is emotional intelligence, rather than alphabetizing and word attack methods. A long, messy, one-second-per-second day that spilled over into a long, messy one-second-per-second story.
It takes what it takes.
FYI. This series of posts isn’t a commercial for this particular school. It’s a commercial for the sanity of children. Do I worry about Nick’s making a living someday? Yes. Almost as much as I worry about his capacity to be a fully-alive human being.
I amble over to the primary room where kids are working on various projects. Nick and Jay are huddled together at the table. Nick doesn’t notice me.
“Nick, I came to say goodbye. Mommy will come get you after school.”
Nick looks up from his sketch.
“Dada?” he says.
This post is the last in a series of four:
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
What’s your paradigm? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
If you like this post and have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, please consider sharing it by clicking one of the buttons below: