Friday, September 24, 2010

On Education. Part 1?

I just began listening to an audio recording of a program called Purpose2Prosperity created by my friend Laura Rice. I have been poised, for a long while now, to get clear about my career. I'd been an English teacher on and off for six years--focusing mainly on at-risk teenagers with whom I connected with easily, and passionately.

But the system drained me. I wasn't there for content and discipline, nor could I consistently create lesson plans. Instead, I wanted to open my students up, to show them their brightest lights, to get them to understand that the circumstances that brought them to their current place were not the end of the line. And it wasn't that education was going to necessarily free them from the bondage of deadbeat parents or poorly run special education programs, it was more a desire that they find inspiration, that they find something they love, that they begin to care about something--anything--and create it, become responsible for it, nurture it.

But I couldn't do it within the confines of detention slips and test scores. I couldn't do it with three kids of my own at home who demanded and deserved my attention just as much as my kids at school. I just couldn't do it any longer.

So I quit.

And I've had some great jobs in the meantime: freelance writing, editing for an educational publishing company, and now writing for a major corporation. I've also come back to my passion for music and writing: publishing articles and essays as well as performing original music and singing for two bands.

And yet, I'm still not balanced. I'm still spending a majority of my time in a cubicle doing work that does not fulfill my passions, and dreaming about the time when I will be rewarded--monetarily--for creating and doing what truly inspires me.

So I met with Laura--it had been years since we last talked--and she generously pointed me in the direction of her program. And I began to listen tonight with an intensity I hadn't had before. An openness, once again, to the idea that I can figure out my purpose, that I can live my passion, and that I can prosper at it. And as I listened, she spoke about passions and she began to list examples of possibilities: "earning that 6-figure income" or "starting up a business of your own." And then there's the one that stopped me: "open up an experiential school for children." And I was immediately in tears.

When I entered my graduate program for secondary education, I did so with the idealistic dream that one day I would open my own school. My school would have the kids no one else wanted. My school would develop the whole student--in whatever creative or analytical manner that was. My school would be crawling with connective energy--each person feeding off the ideas of another. But when I got my first teaching job my brother--who had been teaching for ten years at that point--told me to throw my idealism out the window. I just didn't want to buy it, I told him, and I dove in anyway only to crack under its pressure.

Earlier today I read the speech of a high school valedictorian who spoke out against the system of public schooling. So this idea that Laura mentioned, of opening up a school for experiential learning, comes on the tails of this article today. My thinking was already focused on this idea that the public school system has long awarded the drones of societal youths and beaten down its most creative. I, myself, have played the school game and even earned a Master's degree in the process. There is great value in education, but what kind of education is the most valuable and to whom? And why now--when I've sworn off returning to the classroom and dreamed of writing my book, is this idea back in my head?

Why? Because I am a teacher. I was, and always will be.

And I wonder how this will play out in my next steps. I may not ever find myself back in a public school classroom, but I will teach in other ways. I must. I know this now.

And I'm thankful.

For more information about Laura Rice and Purpose2Prosperity go to