Today I drove from Tulsa to Dallas and had a good five hours to think. Lately, my thoughts swirl around our educational system and such things as the movies “Waiting for Superman” and “Racing to Nowhere” that point to the troubles we face. And as I thought about it, I kept coming back to the question, “Why do we educate our children?” Really. What is our aim?
I looked in the dictionary to find the root of educate. According to Webster’s “to educate” means “out to lead.” Makes sense! When I educate, I am leading the student. Where am I leading them? Where are you leading your students?
I remembered my own education, specifically, high school. I would cram for tests, memorizing the content, take the test, pass, and quickly forget the material. It was all short term memory. Clearly, teaching is more than the content of the curriculum. Webster’s defined teaching as “to show how to do something.” As an educator, I am committed to delivering more than the memory work. Teaching a child to read does not mean you have taught a child to think, to wonder, or to be amazed by learning new things.
I have a sticky note posted in the front of my lesson plan book that says, “A good education gives you goosebumps.” It reminds me to not forget to add a little wonder and curiosity in the plan. In my world, assessing, dibeling, and benchmarking kindergarteners is not producing goosebumps.
In her book, Bringing Learning to Life, Louise Boyd Caldwell, says this about the schools in Reggio Emilia and people’s responses when they visited – “most adults feel awestruck, speechless, often moved to tears. . . (they) immediately sense the extraordinary meaning and beauty of everyday life in a school for the youngest citizens.”
Where am I leading my students? Maybe to be awestruck and speechless by the extraordinary beauty of everyday life. Not a bad place to start.