Google+ Authentic Parenting: Your Best Teacher

Monday, October 3, 2011

Your Best Teacher

I spend 20 years of my life being schooled. Pretty amazing when I write this down. 20 years! More than two thirds of my life so far.
Most of this time I was bored. Uninterested. Passing time at best. Luckily by the time I got to university, I could decide not to be bored and stay at home instead. Or go out drinking. So I did. The first year of uni, I attended very regularly, since I commuted, and it seemed silly to spend all that time on public transport to ‘waste’ my time in the bar. But once I moved to Brussels, my attendance quickly declined into non existence, and the last year of university, I can count the hours of class I actually attended on my two hands.
So why did I not attend? Mostly because the course material was boring. Because I could do the same much quicker at home (usually the two weeks before the examination - I generally passed, so that was proof enough). Also because the professors just didn’t bring you to listening and their lengthy exposés where plain boring. But generally because life itself was much more interesting.
There was one professor I attended every time, because he enticed me. He was funny, he interlaced his theory with anecdotes from his life. He intrigued me. He thought semantics and logics and without him as a professor, I would probably never have been interested in either. Another few course I attended with vigor where more of the debate type, where students were demanded to think for themselves and discuss a certain pre-read text. This is where I was at my best, bouncing off ideas in front of the whole class...

I have been schooled for 20 years, I have been to 6 different schools and must have had more than a hundred teachers, yet when I think about the ones that I remember, positively, there are but a handful. What makes them so special? What separates them from the other teachers?
When I think of the teachers I was fond of in secondary school, I see that they all share some commonalities:
they treated me as a whole person, no matter how young I was
they showed an interest in me and my work
they discussed things at length, beyond the class hours, as equals

Though I might have forgotten most of what they thought. I still remember quite some lively debates, I remember that the student-teacher relationship with all of these teachers went further than just business. I remember that they valued the work of the students, as unique experiences, not as just another class before the next and after the previous. They each incited the students to create, they followed our lead whenever possible. They allowed (some) freedom and self-direction. And this in all kinds of different domains: Latin, Religion, Dutch, Theatre and Biology.

Come to think about it, all of these teachers shared some of the ideals of unschooling, even though within the constraint of the schooling system. They saw their teaching as something more than their job and they did not project themselves as the Allknowing.
They also share the qualities of a good parent.

I also found that the bigger the school (I did three secondary schools), the fewer there were ‘good’ teachers. I even went to one school for a year where basically all teachers were either perverts or nervous wrecks, it was the largest school I had ever been to.

Isn’t it a pity that in these 20 years, I have only met a handful of inspiring people? Children and adolescents should be around inspiring people all the time in order for their fire to burn. For me, true knowledge comes from the clash of ideas. Inspiration arises out of debate and conversation.


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