So, armed with a degree in film, I left to start my first post-college career job working as a bookkeeper at an auto parts store – just to make money, of course. I’m sure you can guess what happened. I let life slide right by, always saying I’d write and publish later, and of course never did. After working several office jobs, and even briefly pitching some screenplays in Hollywood, I was lost. What was I going to do with my life?
I took inventory of my best skills. I could write well, and I loved to read. I already had a college degree, and that’s all you needed to be a substitute teacher. I could do that. So, for the next year and a half I subbed while pursuing a graduate degree in teaching English. English was one of the few classes in high school I actually liked. I thought – it couldn’t be that hard, right? It might actually be fun.
The next four and a half years proved otherwise. I taught at an wealthy all-girls high school, a upper-middle class junior high, and a junior high in a rough neighborhood, but a feeling that something was wrong started to grow inside me. In fact, it grew until I couldn’t stand going to work anymore.
I started researching differerent teaching methods, educational philosphies, anything that would help me figure out why these kids didn’t seem interested in learning no matter what I did. Games, prizes, graphic novels; nothing held the attention of these kids. What was I doing wrong?
Then I started reading authors like John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and Nancy Wallace. At first I was skeptical. How could kids learn if the majority of their day was spent in activties they choose themselves? How would they be motivated without grades and tests? But, the more I read and the more I observed the kids around me, I knew I had to test this theory.
Around the same time, I found out I was pregnant with twins. We had been trying to get pregnant for some time, so I was so excited. I was really excited because this would be my last year teaching; we already knew I wouldn’t go back to work after the kids were born. So, I decided to go all out, ditch the lesson plans and let the kids learn what they wanted to in my class. And the results were amazing.
I worked with kids who supposedly had reading problems. They tested at a first to third grade reading level in the eighth grade. These kids didn’t want to read anything given to them by a teacher. But, after they learned I was serious about learning whatever they felt like in my class, they slowly showed interest in reading. Soon, most kids were really engaged in something when they came to class.
But the administration didn’t like my new ideas. I was specifically told to be glad I was pregnant and leaving because I wouldn’t have been asked back. They didn’t need “my type” of teacher there. What were they afraid of? Was there another agenda going on?
Fast-forward five years. Now I have a new life, a wonderfully blessed life with two awesome kids. I thank God as often as I can for blessing me with living and learning daily with my children. We have daily mini-adventures and longer, more elaborate adventures, too. We learn new things every day (you can’t really get away from that now, can you?).
We are all so unique and have something to bring the world they way that no one else can. Our children are not cogs in a factory. There is no one-size fits all curriculum that will bring out each child’s gifts and talents. Children do not run on the same timetable and should not be treated as such. When we choose to live and learn with our children and help guide them into the work and life they were born to live, then we will will witness truly amazing things: close family bonds that cannot be formed when children are separated from the adult world for most of their waking hours, young adults who posess a mature sense of responsibility and belonging, uninterrupted time to pursue real goals, projects and dreams and a chance to live every day interacting with the wider world.