After a long break from blogging, due to sickness and exhaustion, I return, renewed and enthused. I also attribute my refound enthusiasm to a recent “Tired Mothers Retreat”. Retreats are opportunities for people to remove themselves from every day life. Retreats offer individuals space and time for reflection and renewal. In the past, I have attended retreats with church groups and even my co-workers. When they’re over, though, reality sets in. It’s not fair. Why can’t retreats exist in daily life?
In a seemingly non-related conversation today I was discussing my notion that teachers do not need to offer consistency in classroom management and/or daily routine. I think each teacher should be able to create the environment that they deem appropriate for their content and personal teaching style. In a way, every classroom should be a retreat from daily life, and from every other classroom that students experience. Seems simple, but it’s really not in the current education climate. Why would it be scary for teachers to have autonomy over their class environment? Well, students may rebel against uncreative and, to be honest, boring teachers!
In another, seemingly, unrelated conversation today, a teacher expressed that she felt students “in this generation” have an undeserved sense of “entitlement” and that they are “spoiled”. Seems familiar. Students feeling entitled? How dare they? In every faculty meeting and professional development “workshop” that I have ever attended, it has been discussed that these students are entitled to the best possible education and that it is our responsibility to figure out how to provide that. We spout out terms like “21st Century Skills” and “preparing students for a world that we can’t even imagine yet.” So how do we respond? By resenting students for not accepting our attempts to teach them the content that we learned and in the way that we learned it? Seems contradictory!
What we’re all trying to cope with is that education, and the profession of educating others, is fluid. It changes in response to the people who participate in it. What’s the best possible situation for students and teachers? An environment that can adapt with people. There is no initiative that can act as a panacea. There is no one person who we should look to in order to copy. There are no bad teachers. Whoa!?! The fact is that anyone who chooses education is a good teacher. All students can learn. Central offices are not inherently evil (there is no us vs them…) The only bad ju-ju in education is the mistrust of the others we are involved with (that includes students and politicians). This is not to say that we should take everyone at face value or that we should simply accept the status quo of the current system. In fact, it’s the opposite. We should question everything, and we should be open to being questioned.
There’s a certain uneasiness we all feel in being questioned. It makes us feel defensive and unappreciated. The art of debate has been bastardized and repressed because it creates discomfort, but it shouldn’t. In my experience, most people I know have said that they grew the most when they were totally broken down. Our nation has only grown through conflict. Enlightenment happens when people speak out against the status quo. On the other hand, we attribute peace to people’s mutual respect for law and order. How do we balance our need for rules to follow (be it social, moral, martial, etc) and our need to question and become more enlightened?
Retreats! Allow people (including students) those mountaintop moments in math, science, language, art, media, social studies, etc to explore, question, and grow and you will find societies of engaged and enlightened individuals. If we make our classrooms into educational retreats, we don’t need accountability measures and unifying procedures because learning will be a reciprocal process that adapts at warp speed. I think we’ll find parents who show up because they find they want to understand what is happening. Its kind of a “If you build it, they will come…” situation.