Everything I need to know about being a great teacher, I learned this afternoon.
And the biggest lesson was? I am not one.
I spent the afternoon with a classroom of third graders as a parent volunteer with the Scientists in the School program. A few hours later? I’m exhausted.
I had a healthy respect for teachers before I entered the classroom, but 3.5 hours of “But why?” and “Can I eat this?” (in a Science lab!!!!) left me with frazzled nerves. I came away with two thoughts:
1. Teachers don’t get nearly enough respect…or pay …or attention. They should be met with flowers every morning and parents should have to bow in their presence.
2. Thank goodness I don’t have to try to duplicate all that they do on our upcoming trip.
When Ish and I set 2011 as the date that we’d take off and head around the world for a year, how we would educate the kids was a looming question.
We realized that it would mean taking them out of school for a year and we were okay with that. We believed (and still do) that the education they would get out of traveling for a year was far superior to what they would miss in grades two and four at home. (Note that we were also very aware that waiting until they were older would make this a bigger issue.) So when we approached their school a few years ago to begin to prepare their principal and teacher for the coming exodus, we went in with the mindset that even if the school was against it, we were going.
As parents we often give up so much control of our kids’ lives to others over the years and this was important to us. We were prepared to stand firm.
The thing is, the confrontation never happened.
From the moment we mentioned to the kids’ school what we were thinking, they were on board. The teachers immediately saw the value.
And even though my children had to change schools last year, the new school is even more supportive and is, in fact, looking for ways to keep us all connected during our year away so that my sons’ schoolmates learn from the experience as well.
This is all a huge relief.
It also helps that the requirements in Ontario are that parents sign a form promising to provide an education for their children. There is no set requirement that they do x hours of math or science. When they return the kids are placed in the grade they are supposed to be in – as if they’d never been away and the teachers assess whether they need help catching up and if so, whether it can be done without putting them back a grade or not.
We know there are teachers and principals and parents out there who believe we’re making a mistake. Thankfully, it would seem that none of them are at our school. Even if the were, our decision would be the same.
It doesn’t change what we’re doing or why we’re doing it.
During our year away we’ll be world schooling – using the world we live in to help the kids understand subjects like history, math, geography and social studies. We’ll carry the curriculum with us and try to work it in as we go but we won’t be slaves to it. The point of this year is to spend time together as a family and share world experiences. If they have to wait until we’re home again to truly understand fractions – so be it.
But the time I spent in the classroom today was a reminder that I probably couldn’t replicate what their teachers do if I tried.
Instead, in these weeks before we leave, I’ll try to show my appreciation for all they do in little ways. I’ll work a little harder to help the kids realize how lucky they are, offer up my time in the school and take nothing about our education system for granted
We’re lucky. We know it. And we plan to take full advantage.