Education is Just a Hot Mess

It’s September 14 and I just survived Week One. For me, director and main teacher in the second year of our program, the “success” of any given day/class/program/experiment is personal. I need to take responsibility for it, make corrections, answer to kids and parents, and forge ahead.

This is all fine. I’m The Headmistress. I picture myself as Professor MacGonnagall in Harry Potter: Severe, yet magical. Here — this is me. Picture me riding my high-end kick scooter with a bunch of 8yo boys behind me.

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I’m sure sure Professor MacG was well aware of what I’m reckoning with right now: Education is naturally messy, constantly evolving, and never exactly right. Like parenting. Like everything, really.

We had a great week. Our new teacher introduced us to the concepts of biotic and abiotic, led a fabulous scavenger hunt for items in both categories. She added read-aloud to snack time, and got kids started on journaling.

Some of them loved this. Others resist even an hour of structured learning. Teacher Lauren and I are left to reckon with the balance between “free schooling” — the philosophy which believes that children naturally learn without external structure — and a more traditional pedagogy which teaches that focusing and listening need to be taught explicitly.

I guarantee you we’ll never get this “right”. There is no right.

Another example: The highlight of Monday was a visit from the beekeepers, who talked us through the process of harvesting honey. We got to keep two combs and spend the rest of the day scooping out the honey made by our own bees, from our own flowers. A couple kids did this for hours. The downside: Three people got stung, including me, and the bees were clearly angry with us for the rest of the day. There was a lot of running and screaming.

We have a kid who frequently has angry tantrums, swears loudly, and won’t sit still for anything. He is also the best worker in the group–give him a tool and he’ll do anything for you. We have kids who never stop moving, and others who really wish there was a little more peace and quiet around here. We have kids who don’t eat vegetables, and kids are a strict vegetarians. We have kids recovering from traumatic experiences in school and never want to go back, and others who have never been to school, but think they might want to try it sometime.

Thank goodness we also have teen assistants who make everything fun, an endlessly fascinating worm bin, a loft to climb to and a pole to slide down on, the “scooter shack”, bugs and magnifying glasses, binoculars and our own flock of pigeons to observe, and a nearby cemetery featuring real ghosts! Et cetera.

Education is endless. It’s happening all the time. And it’s just a mess. Probably, nothing needs to really be “fixed” at all. It’s still my job to fix it.

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