I once had a high school English teacher (Mr. Olzman) who opened his first class with a speech something like this: (forgive my memory almost 20 years later). “I don’t expect you to respect me. I am going to EARN your respect. There are 17 students and 17 teachers in this classroom. We all have something to teach and something to learn from one other.” This one to one education method was one of the most effective I have ever experienced. We edited each other’s English essays. We actively learned together, from each other, and were respected for our thoughts. The One to One Model of education – where we learn from each other (parents, students, and staff) by establishing mutual respect needs to be a core component of the future of education.
As a parent I feel like what I want in my child’s educational experience isn’t unique. I want my daughter to have a place to play with other kids around her age. I want her to have the freedom to run around outside as much as possible and to be a kid as long as she feels the need to be. I want to be welcome as a parent to be involved in her education and have open and honest dialogue with her teachers. I want her uniqueness (and every child’s uniqueness) honored and not taught or trained out of her. I want her to feel safe and loved and excited to learn about her world.
What I see and am experiencing in education is the opposite and it astounds me. Already, in only preschool, I’m coming face to face with an educational system designed to make the children fit into a mold that conforms to the system (an out dated model designed to produce conformist corporate cogs. Not free agents or entrepreneurs). In this system we worked to explain her unique needs in detail, a plan was laid out and then the school decides it doesn’t have the bandwidth to meet her needs and changes the plan. This doesn’t work for her – she has an accident, she feels stress and shame. I have heard many other parent stories such as these around IEPs and other deviations from the system process in public school systems. How frustrating is it to have your child treated like a number that is out of sequence instead of a unique human being.
Systemizing kids is wrong and it will never yield educational results that match my dream for kids or their families. If we are a nation that honors diversity, uniqueness, and merit we must find a different solution than the one to many uniform educational model. We cannot have young children arrested for making clocks, or suspended for twirling pencils, or shamed because they have sensory processing disorder and are terrified of the public toilets because the flush noise sounds like an explosion to their ears. We can not teach children to mindlessly consume information dictated to them from a “teacher” and regurgitate it back on to a test later if we hope to have critically thinking, involved future adults. Children need to be respected for their creative thought and unique perspectives and capabilities.