School-ish Thoughts

Before I dive in, let me just say that the give away comments are the greatest! I have laughed and snickered and giggled and nodded sagely. You all made my day and the give away is open all week if you haven’t entered yet.

Recently I sewed a dark rose-colored twill into a dress for this winter. I thought it was a fun color and the fabric is heavy and warm. It is also scratchy, but tough, like denim. When Gabe saw it, he said, “Hey, that is exactly like your schoolmarm dress, only it is missing the wooden buttons! You’re even wearing the same sweater!” And I was. Friends, I have had this sweater for 14 years. Is that some sort of record?

I wasn’t sure if that makes me like the dress, or hate it. The one he was referring to was homespun fabric and I wore it with tweedy boots the winter we were blissfully unaware that we were falling for each other. He remembered that dress?!! Probably this is a little like the cologne he still wears that always gives me the sensation of standing in the office beside the copier, knowing that he must have been copying fact forms earlier that morning. Hey, it was a small room and the scent lingered. 🙂 🙂

I started thinking about school, both my teaching and the years I attended our small church school. I don’t know how I was so fortunate to have teachers with 10, 15, even 20 years of experience. My third grade year was a first time teacher whom we all adored. (Anyway, the girls did. I never saw the boys clamoring to hold her hand.) All the other years I had veterans for teachers, the kinds of teachers who saw trouble coming while it was still in thought form in small children’s heads. I had teachers who pulled out my strengths (English) and helped me not to feel too humiliated by my weaknesses. (Think geometry.)

Small church schools cannot afford to be very picky about training and qualifications when they hire because they operate on tight budgets, for one, and the pool of interested candidates is usually quite small. Generally, if you like children and you like teaching, you have a job.

That is how it was in the days when I had a classroom with 16 students in 3 grades. One of my students was dyslexic and I had absolutely no idea how to help him connect what the class was learning with how he processed life, even with all the library books I read on the subject. I was as green as they come, but I gave it everything I had and I did love teaching. My siblings rolled their eyes when I went to bed early instead of socializing. (I missed the rollover from 1999 to Y2K because I was too tired to stay awake, even though there was a rook game in progress right outside my bedroom door.) I got up early and made lesson plans, and I learned to enjoy coffee. I wore teacherly clothes with wooden buttons. I scoured book sales and libraries for fresh reading materials. And when I added up my hours and divided my paycheck by them I found I wasn’t being paid minimum wage. I had fun though, and I think the children learned despite my obvious greenness.

There was a day when a third grader confided in me that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up and I thought she probably would be a good one. This year she has a classroom of her own.

I had a student who wrote his philosophy on life like this: I am not smart. I am not dom. I am just regler.

There was a little boy who broke his glasses on average once a month, and now I think of him when my son’s glasses last one week.

It was endlessly challenging and enlightening. You wanna study human nature? Try it in a classroom with a  bunch of uninhibited small people. This is making me feel old, because a lot of those students are married with children of their own.

I only taught two years because I did the predictable and fell in love with my co-teacher and married him. Then I had babies and they grew bigger so that now we are in our 7th year of homeschool. There are things about school life that you simply cannot replicate at home, and vice versa.  Some days I wouldn’t recommend homeschool at all. But it works for our family and we walk on, one day at a time, same old sweater in another world.

Want to hear my philosophy on education in a nutshell?  Books. Okay, that is a bit simplistic. Here is the longer version.

Education is the process of finding the gifts of a child and equipping him to use his gifts for the good of others. 

How this happens is pretty much open to interpretation. I am not die-hard bricks and mortar school, home-school, cyber-school, whatever. I do insist, however, that everyone is gifted in some way, and no matter how “regler” they feel they are, the world is richer for them using their talents. I have seen people that are afraid to try new things because they feel they lack the training to do them well. That is what education is for, in another nutshell.

Sometimes it takes a long time for the gift to become evident. I admire my husband immensely for his tenacity in going back to school and pursuing the dream that had stirred in him quietly for years.  But it doesn’t have to look like that at all. Learning to weave baskets, researching the habits of the greater kudu with a small boy who wants to know, trying to understand the workings of a yeast dough, these are all education.

If I can teach my children to be unafraid of the learning process, I will feel that I have succeeded in educating them. What is your philosophy on education?




If you want to read an article about a great teacher, go here and read what my husband’s former student wrote about him. 🙂

4 thoughts on “School-ish Thoughts

  1. Ok I literally laughed out loud at “I am not smart. I am not dom. I am just regler.” 🙂 The spelling could have come from my son.
    I totally agree with your emphasis on the importance of books in a child’s education. I’m so glad my boys love books.
    (A little secret… if you teach your children to love reading, eventually traveling is fun and relaxing again. For parents too!) 🙂

  2. Oh my, such memories this brings back to mind… I better not even start! 🙂 I had one little girl who said, “you better keep on truckin’ or I won’t be smart!! ( I think those were the words) So many things I could say about teaching school, homeschooling, education… Thanks for sharing!

    1. I remember that “trucking'” line, Betty Ann. Looking back, I know I was fortunate to pick up a classroom that had been so thoroughly taught by you the year before. 🙂

  3. Seriously, Dorcas, sometimes it seems you must have been my twin. I can’t believe how many details of our stories are similar. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and nodded and laughed.

    I think I would enjoy talking education with you. One of my philosophies is that children should be taught to enjoy learning, so they will eventually become self taught and life long learners.

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