Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A Discourse on Education - a history of me

(Do any of you have a subject on which you tell people "don't get me started!"? Well, for me, that is education. However my love of education is so strong and it is a subject about which I am so passionate that I feel impressed to leave some of my thoughts on it here. I will start today, but I really feel that this is a subject to which I will return again and again. I will try to be concise, but I cannot promise to be brief. I guess you can call this a disclaimer, or "fair warning". But I do hope you might peruse some of these thoughts, because education is something that affects each one of us, and it is too important to ignore).

I loved school. My education was absolutely fantastic. I came up through the public education system here in Canada, but I couldn't say it was ordinary.

At three my mother enrolled me in nursery school. I spent three mornings a week for two years in this delightful place. I can still remember what the classroom looked like, filled with art supplies and books and toys and a teacher with a bright beaming smile. I got a great kickstart to learning. (It should also be noted that my mother always wanted to be a teacher, and by the time I was 15 had fulfilled that dream. So education was highly valued in our home).

I easily developed my own love of learning, and combined with a gift of intelligence, was soon enrolled in French Immersion, so that I might be challenged at school. By grade two, however, I was quickly becoming bored with the curriculum. I raced through reading programs and found school much too easy. After a series of tests I was placed into a "Mode II" class, that met a few times a week and that challenged me with different critical thinking games.

By grade four, however, it was evident that the class I was in wasn't providing me with what I needed. My parents made the decision to transfer me to the gifted program. So in January of grade four, I moved to a new school, new class, and new classmates. I stayed in the program through to the end of grade eight, and I loved every second of it. The class was structured so that we might pursue our individual interests, with much more freedom than in a regular classroom. I can remember to this day my grade five project on paper airplanes. I devoured books on different designs, made them all, and then designed my own paper airplane that incorporated what I thought to be the best aerodynamic designs of the ones I had tested.

While in grade eight I saw a presentation at my school about a school for the arts. Having a keen interest in dramatics, I was taken with the idea that I could "major" in drama at high school! I auditioned for the school and was granted one of the 50 spots for grade nine. I continued taking gifted classes in my other subjects while majoring in drama for the rest of my high school career.

When it came time for university, I chose to follow my love of the arts. With top marks in science and math, I could have easily fallen into a field that held much more prestige and practicality, and yet I couldn't resist my emerging love of film. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Studies at university.

Throughout my school years, I also had a chance to spend a few months in grade school attending classes in England, a few weeks in New Zealand, and one semester in high school in France.

With only two exceptions, every teacher I had was passionate about their vocation and eager to impart something to me. I am so grateful for my extraordinary education opportunities, for I know that it shaped my views on the subject today.

Through the years, I have taught in many capacities: piano teacher, French tutor, drama instructor, Sunday School teacher. One day I hope to get my Bachelor of Education and spend some time teaching high school.

So why is education one of those topics that you "shouldn't get me started on"? I have been exposed to some emerging ideas on the current system of education lately that have me thinking and rethinking how we educate today. It all started when Colin was born. Right away I knew I would have to be alert, because he is a "December boy". If you mention "December boy" to a grade school teacher, they will knowingly nod and share a smile of sympathy. Boys tend to be behind girls in terms of school-readiness at the age of 5. But a boy born in December can be almost an entire year behind the rest of his classmates, because he is the youngest in the class. So right from the start my mind was set in motion, learning about the "December boy" phenomenon, wondering if I should hold him back a year from starting school (many December boys struggle in school their whole educational career, and quite a few will be held back in the early grades).

This small interest soon ballooned. I have become somewhat obsessed with looking at the teaching styles and classroom format of today and wondering whether or not it offers the optimal setting for education as I think important. I have read some interesting ideas and developed some interesting insights into the subject.

(I think this is enough of a tease into the subject...stay tuned for future entries to inspire you in learning and teaching!)


Anonymous said...

Who were the two exceptions?

Terri-Ann said...

OAC English teacher and OAC Calculus teacher. My English teacher sucked every iota of love out of the subject (and you know how much I loved English!) and my Calculus teacher seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else but there. He also didn't think it strange that I had a 98% going into the final exam and came out with something in the 70s (which gave me either a zero, or something very close to that, on the exam). Two subjects I loved a lot, both classes ruined by the teachers!

Anonymous said...

Which teachers? I had the opposite happen with calc. I went into it with a decent mark, but BLANKED during the exam (first and only time that happened, thank goodness) and still came out with an A, which was impossible. I'm 100% sure Mrs. McLaren realized what had happened and did not count my exam, or used something else, like my test results, in its place. And I has Mrs. L-H, for OAC, who you know is wonderful :).