“You’re Going to Love School, I Promise!”


The “Back to School” signs are in full force on multiple fronts including advertisements, social media, print articles, radio and television.  I couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of titles aimed at parents who may need support getting their children excited about going back to school. The fact that we have to entice young people back to school should be a warning signal. Unfortunately, there are too many who believe that school doesn’t have to be enjoyable, after all, not everything in life is enjoyable.

There are always some who love the routine and predictability of school. They have done well, fit the mold, followed the plan and achieved the subsequent rewards, i.e. good grades, certificates and other tangible payoffs.  They blissfully abide by the constructs of forced schooling. It’s what they are used to, what their parents are used to and what schools and our society tells them they must do to succeed.

In schools, we learn to comply or we fail.  Sounds like fun right?

Learning in school is contrived, overly scheduled, forced and regulated. None of these conditions are conducive to learning, yet we willingly convince our children it’s in their best interest to do so.   We believe we are good parents when we send our young people off to school everyday. We start the pep rallies months before they are old enough to go, just in case they exhibit signs of resistance. Parents can be the best cheerleaders.

It apparently doesn’t matter that almost every psychology course that teachers take in their educational preparation track, clearly outlines the importance of relevance, meaning and self-direction in the learning equation. This also proves true in brain research and various learning studies. While teachers find this information helpful, they often seek the practical nuts and bolts application in their classrooms.  Studies don’t bridge that gap very well.

What actually happens in the classroom is drastically different and is most often not the fault of the teacher.

Someone else decides what, when and how students will learn. Someone else determines who succeeds and who fails. Someone else decides and predicts a child’s strengths and weaknesses based on a designated grade level curriculum. Deadlines and expectations are a constant threat with frequent evaluation and reporting as a means to ensure progress. Even if a teacher wanted to allow for self-directed learning, the system is not designed to function that way.

Encouraging exceptions to this norm do exist as a recent article by Kerry McDonald explains below.

Full article

Kerry’s Blog

Different and effective models of learning are edging their way into the mainstream public schooling world and they are long overdue.

I am a firm optimist and believe that all things are possible. When a critical mass rallies around the freedom to learn, great public schools can happen. Many brave teachers are rallying the troops even now.


Experience Life – Don’t Just Live IT!

GRammy sign

The old proverb, “experience is the best teacher” rang true this week as I discovered another accurate saying, “you are never too old to learn something new.” It was, it is, and it will always be true.  I’ve heard that experience gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards.  Some of us may need more experience than others when it comes to learning our lessons. More than often, I fall into that category, but not this past week. This week, I experienced three incredible lessons that I learned rather quickly. I’ts no wonder, I had the best teachers –  my grandchildren!

Here is what I learned.

  1. Grandchildren are better than ice cream on a hot day.
  2. Grandchildren are better at hearing and listening than we think they are.
  3. Grandchildren are better at taking you out of your comfort zone than you are yourself.

Let me explain.

My 18 year old, incredibly busy granddaughter, texted me at 1:30 p.m. “Grammy, you want to hang out together later this afternoon and maybe go to the pool?  I have until 6:00 p.m.?” I quickly replied in the affirmative knowing that this granddaughter typically has very little time to spare. Several minutes later she texted again, “I have to work late, sorry, no time for swimming.” I responded that maybe we could just grab dinner and she replied, “COOL!”

At five o’clock she texted, “Still at work, “Can’t do dinner. How about ice cream instead?” I never say no to ice cream on a hot day so I agreed. At 5:45 p.m., Maria and I met at the frozen yogurt shop.  As we sat talking about her upcoming class schedule, her stage managing, various shows in the works, our mutual passion for sorbet and her healing foot still in the boot, I realized this experience was a keeper. Her big blue eyes danced as we exchanged smiles and hugs good-bye – until the next time.

These brief 15 minutes were far better than the cool sorbet ice cream we enjoyed together.  She had to leave at 6:00 p.m. That was the best 15 minutes of my day.

My two younger granddaughters, 9 and 11 came for one of their Grammy sleepovers. We played games, went to the pool, ran a few important errands and had pizza, of course. As is our custom, we went to church on Sunday. The girls walked hand-in hand to find seats where they waited for my signal to pull out their coloring books. Busy creating the most extraordinary pictures, they hardly noticed that the service was over. As we made our way back home, I asked if they heard or learned anything from the sermon.

Much to my surprise, they both summed it up in one sentence. “If you don’t have love for others then what’s the point?” That brought a huge smile to my face. I was tempted to send their shortened version to the pastor, but decided that it was meant for me. Alexis and Anya added, “it matters less what you say than what you actually do.” They also chuckled telling me that they were listening while they were coloring and reminded me that you can do more than one thing at a time.

We all laughed, but I knew that this experience was another keeper. These morsels of wisdom were far better than any sermon I’ve ever heard.

During a brief visit with my 14 year old grandson, he described his efforts to build a demo derby car from spare parts. I know very little about cars and nothing about demo derby ones, but his face beamed with excitement at the possibility of telling me everything I ever wanted to know. How could I refuse?

He explained the kind of paint needed, the type of engine he wanted and the specific tires that he might use. Details included the nuts and bolts holding it together along with a YouTube visual for the demo-derby challenged like his Grammy. I asked questions, he eagerly responded with patience and expertise.

I found myself relishing this moment simply due to the sparkle in his eyes as he shared his passion with me. I knew it was another keeper experience. Although stretched a bit out of my comfort zone, I can talk demo derby with some confidence thanks to Nathanael’s tutoring.

Experience is definitely the best teacher, especially when it’s with your grandchildren. There is absolutely nothing better.