There are so many things wrong with today’s education system. There are many people who would disagree with that statement. These are probably people who are favored by the current system. The evidence of the brokenness of this system is not necessarily shown in any numbers or statistics. It is, however, shown in many, many, individual experiences, such as mine. I started out in a small, nature and spiritual oriented private elementary school. I was in preschool for 2 years, had nap-time every day in those years. Come kindergarten, I was just starting to learn to read. I was already a bookworm in spite of the fact that it was one, maybe two, little kindergarten books that I read over and over again everyday. Then came the day that there was the announcement for anyone who wanted to participate in the Christmas Eve choir/service to report to the Family Room during recess. So what did this little 6 year old girl do? She went to the family room, not realizing that announcement was really meant for people first grade and up. Even after I was told that, I insisted on being in that service even though I couldn’t even read the sheet music yet. Instead of refusing me because I was too young, they gave me a folder with one sheet of music in it and had me sing along as best I could. That was the beginning of my 12 years of participating in school choir. In first grade came math. It wasn’t standardized like it is in public schools. No, we all had a folder of worksheets in a certain order to do at our own pace. As such, I of course was doing multiplication in first grade, speeding ahead of some second graders. We had a similar system for English/spelling/grammar. They had a series of work books. A few of us first graders were already part way through the fourth book before finding out that we weren’t actually supposed to go that far and were given the intermediate binder of worksheets. At this school, even if I was only in kindergarten and first grade, I was truly allowed to explore my full potential.
So of course second grade was the year that I had to switch from this wonderful little school to the bigger, albeit still small in the grand scheme of things (still only 300 people pre-K through 6), public elementary school. What was the worst part of the switch for little 8 year old me? Going back to addition! Oh, the horror! Here I was doing multiplication in first grade and I had to go backwards? I hated it and of all things, that was the worst part of the switch for me.
Fast forward to sixth grade it got out that I believed in fairies. And this was of course … a bad thing? I got ridiculed for, essentially having an over active imagination. Granted I still do believe in fairies and everything else, but I learned real quick that the only way I was going to maintain any sanity/dignity with the other kids was if I channeled that belief into writing and creating a new world. So that’s what I did
That, however, is veering from the point of this little mini-autobiography. Okay, sixth grade, let’s start with English and writing. I had a wonderful teacher for fifth and sixth grade. It was still public school, but she got me, granted she also had very high expectations. For writing and reading we had a reading/writing notebook. For the first half of the year, we had to write a book report every week. I was terrible at that. You wouldn’t expect it, my having been a bookworm since kindergarten, but I was terrible at writing assignments that were all formal with specific regulations that had to be adhered. Now, of course when I did manage to actually write those summaries, she said I should write book reviews and summaries professionally because I was so good at doing it. However, that was only when I was truly excited about the book. Anyway, move on to the second part of the year, the reading notebook changed to a writing notebook. Instead of having to write about the books we were reading we simply wrote back and forth with the teacher. And she did indeed actually consciously respond to all of us. I loved that part of the year because of that. So moral of that is, when I was restricted in what I had to write and how I had to write it, I slacked off and didn’t do it very much, but when it switched and I could write whatever I wanted? Oh how much I wrote. I started a couple of books that year, I have since dropped those ideas but still, I had inspiration when I was allowed to respond to whatever inspiration brought me.
In terms of math, of course I was given the test to determine whether I would be in advanced math the next year and I passed, as expected.
So again, fast forward to senior year. I’m in choir, I’m in high school calculus in spite of already having one more math credit than needed, and I’m in advanced English. I thought it would be a good year, but almost immediately that changed. I also had Government that first semester. That class involved a lot of writing assignments and as mentioned before, although I’m a writer I was terrible with writing assignments. So I started having anxiety about that class. Next came my anxiety with advanced English, as that also involved a lot of writing assignments. So as early as September, I went to the guidance counselor to find out if I had any alternate options as to how to take those classes. I was met with a resounding no and an attempt to get me to identify what, specifically was giving me trouble and anxiety. Problem was, I really didn’t know, not yet anyway. So in October the anxiety was worse. Calculus, my first class of the day, was fine, I enjoyed that class. But then English was my second class of the day and there the anxiety started. So I went to the guidance counselor a few more times trying to change things. I was trying to take charge of my own education, as well as emotional well being. But it was then that I gave up. So throughout November and December, the anxiety got worse and worse, I was crying multiple times a day and I dreaded just entering the building each morning.
Now we come to the day of the Winter Concert. In the middle of the day, I didn’t feel good and I wanted to go home. So I tried to get signed out but met with the obstacle of having no emergency contacts apart from my mom who didn’t have a phone at work. By the time everything was resolved I had had a full on anxiety attack, crying and crying and feeling trapped and wanting to run. That was the last day I went to school. I was able to get home, I went back for the concert that night, stayed home the next few days until the holiday break started. The break was wonderful, I was hanging out with friends. Then came the last day of break, the next day I would have to go back. By now the anxiety was so great that I could not handle the thought of entering that building again. I realized that even if I somehow managed to make it to graduation, I would lose all the emotional well being, balance and dignity I had left. I needed to forget about everyone else and think about me. So I emailed my guidance counselor and a few teachers saying I wasn’t coming back, I was dropping out. I had a very clear plan of where I was going next, starting work, getting my GED and eventually going to college when I was ready. When all was said and done I was tutored for my last two remaining credits and I did get my diploma.
It’s been two years since then, and I am only just about to start college in the fall. I am in a wonderful space, I have wonderful friends, I know exactly what I’m going to study in college and I just feel so amazingly wonderful about where I’m going.
I do not, in any way, regret what has happened to lead me here. I do, however regret that they had to happen. Let’s go all the way back to the change between the private school and public school. What would have happened if the public school system wasn’t so standardized and operated more like the private school? I would have continued doing multiplication and going only up from there at the speedy pace I was going. As it is now I got part way through high school calculus. If I had been able to continue at the pace I was going, I bet I would already be about half way through college math. I would have been able to use my heart and passion more in English and writing more. I would probably already be published by now. And when senior year came around, there would be no anxiety because when I couldn’t learn in a certain way, I would have been able to work with the teachers to discover how I do learn and adapt the class to that. This is the way the education needs to be. Everyone is intelligent, there are no stupid people. But everyone learns and sees the world differently. Instead of working against that, we need to work with that. Let people go at their own pace, give them help when and only when they need it, let them keep going when they’re on a roll and when there’s an assignment that they can’t connect with, find a way to adhere to their passions. If the book they’re supposed to write about doesn’t attract them, but another book with just as much literary value does, let them do the same assignment with that book.
Don’t wait until someone says they’re going to drop out to find a way to prevent it. Start at the beginning.
Lolana Sarina Anianita Senthorthia, Enchantress of Lamoralin