Theory or practice. If we get stuck in theory then nothing ever happens. If we make the bold move to putting theory into practice then we risk disillusionment. Particularly if we are dealing with a huge immovable bureaucracy. This is my dilemma.
For years I have read about education reform. I even did my Masters of Education hoping to find insight into the area. I have thought extensively about how education should be. I have even taught in my own school in this fashion and have tweaked and polished my theories. I think they are valid. I think they have merit. But what does it matter if they are not applied on a larger scale.
My theories are simple:
1) All humans are learning creatures.
2) The mind must be engaged in order to learn.
These are, to me, rather obvious. Give anyone the opportunity to learn something they love and the job of the teacher becomes the job of the mentor. A mentor guides, assists, encourages. That is the job of the teacher.
I applied this at my little school. I still apply this to my students who come to my house. It works. They learn. I guide. We have fun and education is achieved.
So to that extent I apply my theories. But what about the thousands of children stuck in an antiquated behemoth of the public education system. They are not learning, largely because they are not engaged. Hours, days, and years of boredom are destroying any desire to learn. Time and youth are wasted. Teachers prepare lessons for non-existing standardized children. Even those children who find morsels of information in this wasteland achieve a tiny fraction of what they could. We are destroying them and our future. Parents know this. Children know this. And, above all, teachers know this. But no one does anything. Because that antiquated behemoth rolls over anyone who suggests that it is destructive and should be destroyed.
So I ask the question that all reformers must ask: Is it worth dying for? Literally, probably not. But do I give my time, my energy, my passion to pit my little, tiny David against that Goliath? The immediate response is that to do anything else is cowardice. But where is my slingshot? How do I find a chink in the armor?
The answer surely lies in getting other Davids together. There are so many out there, each choosing their rocks. There is a tendency to want to create another Goliath to make this a fair fight. If we can get enough people invested in taking down the beast, it might work. Except that we might just replace it with another monster. It is not the monster that we need to change but the very ground that it walks upon. As long as we base any educational model on a business model, we are doomed to failure. There are no best practices. There are no products or methods that work for all children. We need to stop looking out there for the perfect way to teach. We need, each teacher, that is, to look at the children right in front of us each day and guide them.
Parents do not teach their children to walk. The children learn that all by themselves. They provide a safe, conducive learning space and let the children figure it out. That is the first school. That should be the premise for all schools.
Coming next: The blueprint for educational spaces