A Year of Possibilities

The year was 1985 when I secured my first teaching job. After giving birth to my four children and staying home with them for eleven years before heading to the classroom, I was anxious and excited to start this career I always knew I wanted from the time I was five years old.

I taught part time and substituted here and there while my children were younger but remained home to be with them most of the time. Having my mom and a good friend nearby helped. I had a chance to exercise my teaching skills at my church Sunday school and summer programs. I loved being with kids so I sought opportunities when I could. It was rewarding but I longed for a classroom of my own.

I taught full time for eleven years in both private and public schools and then discovered a desire to help teachers and students in an administrative capacity. I held various administrative positions from 1996 to 2015 when I retired as an Assistant Superintendent of a school district in northern California.

I always had the heart of a teacher which I considered essential in taking on the responsibility of nurturing and guiding a room full of someone else’s children. I frequently asked the question, “What if this was my child, what would I want them to know and be able to do? How would I want them to feel in my classroom?”

As each year progressed, I experienced a rigid and regimented system of batching, labeling, herding, coercing, bribing and punishing on a daily basis. I saw children who just needed a little more time but rarely got it. I saw fearful, upset, active and aggressive young people acting out, seeking attention, looking for someone to notice them in a positive light. I heard parents asking how they can help and some so frustrated with the system they just gave up.

I also saw what teachers would call the “good” ones as compliant, quiet, polite and obedient getting most of that positive attention. These were the ones who could follow directions, hear and do the first time asked, and seemed well-suited to the school framework of listen and learn then repeat.

Participating in the institution of schooling by way of showing up every day, doing my job and collecting a paycheck I felt responsible for all its faults and shortcomings that became increasingly obvious to me. I tried to offer a different perspective on learning, teaching, grading, and a multitude of other system practices. I saw sincere teachers and some administrators who also wanted some sanity for our children in the midst of the ever looming high stakes testing, standardized curriculum and ineffective grading and reporting practices.

It was an uphill battle indeed. I stayed positive enough and retired after 30 years in the schooling world. Before I retired I started gathering my thoughts and decided that perhaps writing a book on some of the ways we could do schooling better than we have would offer the reader a much needed perspective. I was optimistic and hopeful. Rowman and Littlefield published my book in 2016 one year after I retired.

Since writing that book, my convictions have become even stronger. I am certain now that the schooling system won’t change because it can’t. It’s entrenched in years of repeated mediocracy and indifference.

I have observed what is happening in schools now, what we are asking teachers to do, what it has become and what it still is. Parents learned the inherent flaws, inconsistencies and limitations intimately during the past three years during the COVID pandemic. Eyes were opened for many which resulted in a larger demand for other choices like private, homeschooling, micro schools, learning pods, self-directed learning and a plethora of new entrepreneurial learning start ups. It is an exciting time.

Simply put, school as we know it is a social construct that has run its course. We are embarking on a new learning journey where parents, teachers, community members and young people are yearning and looking for something better, more relevant, more child-centered. Teachers who find themselves in this group are starting to venture out with likeminded individuals to start new models with this in mind.

I titled my 2016 book, Learning Unleashed – Reimagining and Repurposing Our Schools. The time has come to unleash the children from the old paradigm of schooling to a world of new possibilities. Our future depends on it.

If you are a parent there are resources available to you. If you are a teacher looking for something more aligned to your teaching heart there are like minded people to journey with you. If you are a young person ask those tough questions, think critically for yourself and be willing to stretch your horizons.

It can start with reading, learning, dialog and conversation. I have listed a few people I follow.

Dive in!

Follow on Twitter:

Kerry McDonald@Kerry_edu

Hannah Frankman@Hannah Frankman

Rebel Educator@rebel Educator

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