Value: We’re getting this all wrong

You can’t go home again, right? And many of us wouldn’t want to; but the past is a fun place to visit, especially for 7 friends who haven’t all been together for over 30 years. A few in the group have stayed close; one might surmise that those closer associations run along an educational line – those who went to college, those who got married right out of high school, etc., but that is not the case. Turns out what we had in common had little to do with our educational paths and more to do with our life experiences and values.

This all became obvious as we gave an accounting of ourselves – schools, marriages, kids, jobs. Family ties held many of us to the area; others had moved far and wide; some we’re simply missing in action, chained to negative relationships that tend to retard personal growth.

Always the analyst/observer, I studied the women I had grown up with and realized how we had all come together. We were in the “smart classes” at school. That grouping now comprises an academic, an administrative clerk, an insurance sales person, a massage therapist, an architect, a non-profit administrator, and a medical transcriptionist. Only three of us completed college, though at one point or another all of us have taken college courses.

I guess I should ramble on to my point…

why did some of the smartest girls in the school, tracked into the college-bound courses early on, not all go/finish?

Impediments both real and perceived.

Socially, this group came from the poor side of town. General expectations were low and the path to college obscured by ignorance of the road signs. Lack of school guidance beyond the middle school years was another factor, as was familial responsibility.

So, how did we all succeed in  life? How did we all become professional women with responsible, fulfilling careers?

We were educated in a public school by teachers who were able to teach us how to learn. And that most important lesson enabled us to draw upon that knowledge even years later and in a multitude of circumstances. For all the failings of the system in guiding us as closely as might have been useful, the teaching was more than enough! Career educators with deep commitments to their calling are responsible for enabling our successes.

Yet, we hold these very folks in such low esteem today, that we evaluate them with invalid instruments and sanction them as if they were recalcitrant children. And then we expect them to positively affect the life prospects of children. The amazing thing is, that they often accomplish that Herculean task! But the cost to them is so high, the path so steep – not to do the teaching part of the job, but to meet all of the inane administrative obligations – that they give up on what’s important in order to accomplish the inane. And then we sanction them for failing.

We were all ultimately responsible for our own learning, but we needed those teachers to open the doors with their information and to push us through a bit with their heart and passion for learning.

That 21st century world we are supposedly educating children for has very similar obstacles to the 20th century one that sent us down such different paths. Our children need the intellectual skills that will allow them to carve their own ways through their particular obstacles, not a rote set of facts and figures memorized for a test.

Show respect for what (and who) is truly valuable. Let teachers do the jobs they know how to do, the best way they know how to do them.

One night in 2043, over drinks and dinner, a group of friends will thank you.

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