Making the Case for Teaching as a Spiritual Journey: Part III - A Radical Challenge?
It’s late. I stayed up grading and topped the evening off with a re-run of Star-Trek. My husband and I crawl into bed, and just as I set the alarm, he says, “So, what are we going to do about Isa next year?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m home schooling,” I reply in a tone that says ‘It’s late, and you already know that.’
“You are for sure?”
“You said you wouldn’t have a problem with it—you gave me your blessing.”
“I know—I don’t have a problem with it. I just didn’t know you’d decided.”
In my mind, my telling him I was thinking about it and his saying he didn’t have a problem with it was a deciding factor. Done deal.
“I’m not questioning your ability to do it—but . . . how are you going to do it? I mean, how are you going to know what she needs to know?”
I launch into an elaborate declamation of states-based standards and Elliot Eisner’s ecology of school evaluation. At which point, I can feel his body sigh.
I stop talking.
“It’s too bad you couldn’t get a couple of kids.”
“I can’t open a school, hun. I just want Isa to be okay.”
“Maybe you can find out when the school recess is and take her there for recess—it’s a public park, isn’t it?”
My turn to sigh. “I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe I can look into it.”
Although I’m not sure stalking the public elementary school at recess time is the right solution, the intention prompting the suggestion is. It comes back to the play aspect. Although we are met with shrugs of the shoulders and, “alright . . . nothing” when asked about her day, Isa voluntarily replays for us every stroke of recess make-believe: “We were vampire-cats, and we chased Cole because he was a cookie, and we eat cookies instead of blood . . . .”
In response to my last blog post, a mother replied to me with her own misgivings concerning schooling. Specifically, she asked me about my experience with private school vs. public. She, like many parents I know, struggle with the idea of handing over the kind of money that could go toward full college tuition. In her case, like in ours, she isn’t sitting on a nest egg of money collecting interest for the eventful journey into higher ed. Our oldest daughter attended private school from pre-school through tenth grade. She is now about to graduate high school, and the reality of college tuition is frightening. We could have easily saved all the money we spent on private school tuition and not be worrying about the next four years. But, we didn’t. We made the best choice we could at the time.
It is difficult to ignore the imploring of strong voices in curriculum education that echo what I feel as a parent. Here’s what Nel Noddings (2005) has to say:
"Schools today are probably in worse shape than they were [in 1970] . . . . Classrooms should be places in which students can legitimately act on a rich variety of purposes, in which wonder and curiosity are alive, in which students and teachers live together and grow. I . . . believe that a dedication to full human growth—and we will have to define this—will not stunt or impede intellectual achievement, but even if it might, I would take the risk if I could produce people who would live nonviolently with each other, sensitively and in harmony with the natural environment, reflectively and serenely with themselves." (p.12)
Me too. And that’s the point. I may not be able to provide every opportunity that could be of value to Isa, but I know that I can provide her a rich variety of purposes for which she can actively create, wonder about, and grow into a beautiful human being. The essence of who I know her to truly be is worth making the sacrifice.
While this feels like a lonely endeavor, it doesn’t need to be. There are many others out there—educated and caring parents who also are looking at the options and wondering which doors to nudge our little ones through. Here’s a radical idea: what if educated parents were to collaborate? Some are already doing this. There are home schooling social networks, Twitter communities, Facebook communities . . . . What if educated parents were to come together to build a new form of schooling—a kind of Community-Based Schooling?
I’ll leave you with one last quote. This one from a social/educational activist, William Ayers (2001):
"[Today’s curriculum] is built on a deficit model; it is built on repairing weakness. And it simply doesn’t work . . . . We must see beyond the unstated assumption driving most schools, the wacky idea that children are puny, inadequate adults and that the job of education is to transport them as quickly as possible from that sorry state." (pgs. 31 & 33)
Ayers, W. (2001). To teach: the journey of a teacher. (2nd ed.) New York: Teachers
Noddings, N. (2005). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to
education. (2nd ed). New York: Teachers College Press.
Jenn Gutiérrez holds an M.F.A in English and Writing. Previous work has appeared in journals such as The Texas Review, The Writer’s Journal, The Acentos Review, Antique Children, and Verdad Magazine. Her 2005 debut collection of poems titled Weightless is available through most online book outlets.