Please, Teacher . . . .

I was watching a couple of TED Talks this morning (for those of you who have not heard the TED Talks, man are you missing some good stuff . . . check it out!) and listened to two young men speak on a different approach to learning.  They called it thinking.

I can remember being in school and realizing that when I actually concentrated on what I was doing – the information presented to me stuck – and it has to this day.  The problem was that I did not concentrate too often on what was presented to me.

The reason for that was twofold . . . first because I was not the least bit interested in what I was supposed to be learning, and second  . . . a lot of it was presented in a dry, sedentary manner with little or no embellishment or flair.

. . . here you go little girl . . . this is your coloring book  . . . see the nice strong black lines? . . . it is yours but put your name on it so it won’t get mixed up with everyone else’s . . . now, quickly!! . . . . learn how not to go outside of the lines . . . because afterwards there will be a test . . .

You see, I have always had a flair for the dramatic (or so my Mother told me that is what it was!) and enjoyed anything that was presented to me with enthusiasm and energy.  Most likely that could have included even Algebra or Physics, but alas, most of my teachers were not performers.  They were traditional teachers.

For whatever reason that is personal to them, all performers thrive on applause.  We enjoy the connection with our audience as much as the feedback we receive.  In my school, in those days, there was no applause for anyone who did not wish to color between the lines.  And if your personality or unique makeup made it so hard to color between the lines that you really could not do it .   . . even if you tried . . . well, you were lost.  Too bad, so sad.

Years later when I went to Community College a fellow student told me after I aced yet another test, “If you would have tried in school, you would have been a brain.”  Yeah.

What changed from the time I was a child in school to when I was a young adult in Community College?   I had learned to color between the lines.

That worked okay for decades . . . I colored and colored and colored, but you know, that kind of coloring did not bring contentment.

Then one day, not all that long ago, I decided to draw my own box.  That box was so deeply satisfying that I began to draw others . . .  and a curious thing happened . . . as I allowed my box drawing to reflect my unique perspective on life and learning . . . my “box” changed.  It became not so much about “drawing” as it was about “creating.”  I started to draw less and color more . . . and sometimes, instead of drawing, I began erasing lines to see what would happen.  I liked my eraser.  It made me happy.

I have found that sometimes the best drawings have no lines and do not use perspective of any kind.  I found that I did not require lines in order to create with brilliant color.  That is a curious concept indeed.

I can relate to these kids.  A lot of children do not learn in a traditional manner, and while many kids seem to work well in a structured environment, what would happen if they, too, were exposed to a more creative, fluid, energetic way of gathering information?  A way that allowed them to color whatever they wanted in whatever way they wanted?  Why?  Simply because they could then create instead of learn.  The information provided would be the same, but the way they gained access to this information would be their option.

I applaud those parents who understand their children’s needs to the degree that they are willing to take action and not allow their children to become casualties of a traditional educational system.  However, there are challenges in taking that route.  If the reason for withdrawing children from the current system is for the purpose of segregation for whatever reason, be it religious or social, that can create more problems, by far, than solutions.   For me, those choices represent fear in some manner and parents must be aware of why they opt for home schooling.  It is one of the most important decisions a parent can make on behalf of their child.

I am not bashing the traditional system . . . it serves its purpose.  I had one child who thrived in that system and still does, while retaining his creative autonomy.  But I had another child who did not thrive there.   She began to thrive once she left the traditional system.  She never liked coloring between the lines.

I understand that we cannot change the educational system overnight, and that the majority of children still receive their education in a traditional environment.  I am, however, encouraged that the young educators of today were the children who received some measure of exposure to these new concepts and methods of assimilating information . . . and now have the experience and the ability to encourage thinking, and coloring . . . outside of the box.

As a society we have to provide the means for educators to work in this innovative manner.  I believe we need to compensate our children’s educators in a manner that properly reflects their contributions to society and provide them access to new programs that allow their own creativity to flourish.  How could they not be enthusiastic about what they are presenting under those conditions?  This would be a profoundly important move towards the paradigm shift that is required to transform the traditional system into one that includes all children’s needs.

I think it is the right time for society to realize that all children (and adults) need a nurturing and encouragement that allows them to express their brilliance in whatever manner they themselves find fulfilling.  I truly think the first step is to allow both systems to integrate, and there are creative folks out there who know how to achieve that goal.

We can build a better world that values individual creativity.

“Please, Teacher . . . color me a happy world.”  🙂

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Published by Paula D. Tozer

I am a writer, poet and singer/songwriter. I am a Toastmaster, motivational speaker, personal creativity coach, and workshop leader. My most sincere wish is to share my words with others, and that we both benefit from the exchange.

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