As much as I loved spending summers running around the neighborhood, making sidewalk chalk downs, enrolling in various summer programs, and reading lots and lots of Harry Potter, the most exciting part of my summer were the couple of weeks leading up to the start of school.
A pack of pastel printer paper full of calendars, forms, and clip art would arrive in the mail, and I would read through it word for word, in order, to get to the School Supply List. The ultimate summer satisfaction – checking off that list in style. Finding the best supplies and gathering them together, clean, shiny, new, unopened, waiting to be abraded by the hard work to come over the year.
A lot of school is satisfying in that way, even though not all of it is as shiny – daily homework assignments, daily schedules from classroom to classroom – to do well all you need to do is follow directions and try hard.
The younger you are the less painful it is – the teachers draw attention to every holiday, to the changing of the seasons, to the little annual things that you don’t have time for when you’re older. You have craft time to be creative and reading time to sit on a beanbag chair and worry about nothing, immersing yourself in a book.
But each year it gets slightly harder, focusing more on work and less on creativity, and then, you get to high school and they expect you to bring back creativity, incorporating it into work, the way you think, rather than by restricting it to the arrangement of construction paper you choose. The work becomes more ambiguous, more interesting, but the days of instant satisfaction have slipped away…
Every year as you approach university you are expected to enter each class with a stronger base knowledge. Those couple of weeks before school starts carry the weight of uncertainty, and this feeling overtakes the excitement sometimes, when you wonder if you’ve taken enough notes on the summer reading book.
Then, for me, before entering university I’m given nine thousand of summer reading to do rather than three hundred. I’m given more work, less guidance, and much more responsibility. Although frustrating and directionless at times, it is an exciting challenge – one that teaches me how to learn rather than just teaching me the things themselves, and this is what Ken Robinson says should be happening with education. It seems like something easy to suggest but much harder to implement:
Make the learning process more consistent throughout.
Keep creativity apart of every classroom, not just the art studio, encourage the fun side of education (Jump Start 12th Grade, anyone? And beyond the obvious link of “games” with “fun,” why save the interesting out-of-the-box seminars for college? Wouldn’t it be cool if more subjects were taught than Math, Science, English, and History, all through school? Just a little taste at least!), don’t abandon the annual rituals because no one is too cool for them, and teach us how to learn.
Growing up, I always thought that adulthood was so far away – that high school – was so far away, and I think Hollywood is to blame for that. Perhaps if I dress up and do this dance that back-to-school excitement will never leave?