Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Create With Me" - Megan Nichols

A fellow teacher and friend in Baltimore City by the name Megan Nichols wrote the following and is a must read...

There is an image in your mind and it is likely a little bit different than mine but it’s of the child. 
I ask you to picture it.
The child that creates and is messy and passionate
The child that changes things with their mere presence
Hold fast to this child, hold onto mine or to yours or perhaps now a somewhat congruent vision. 
That image in your mind of the child. Picture it. Create it with me, for just a moment.

Now of what adult would you say such things? How many grown men and women would you seek their presence for the simple joy or to be moved by their exploration or immeasurable brilliance?

When does this occur this breaking of the wings that carried the child to make meaning to feel to believe with such conviction in these things that if 
We really believed in them, these things like world peace and justice
If we really valued these things if we fought for them with just an ounce of the fervor
Or brilliance of the child
Things could be quite different in this world.

This breaking of wings this squashing of imagination this loss of sincerity
Begins I believe with the education
as our system strives to provide clarity. Clarity and data and scores and right answers that will help our economy rise
But their wings are broken
Replaced with something else, something that is not that the child at all

And so, with your patience and open minds I’d like to tell you a story of my very own
Breaking of wings and how I began this career as a teacher so rooted in the child
Yet I broke their wings and how I became capable of doing such things
Like rigor, bright signage, class points and deductions
These things that were for adults and not for the child that had been silenced.  My story.  

The first day of school.  The first bell, the first objective , the first encounter
Between me and my students
The students that would test shape change guide push and educate me
The students that would rise and fall and disappear in into the depths of east Baltimore nowhere near their potential let alone that image of the child you hold in your mind. Picture it. Create it with me.
The child that creates and is messy and passionate
The child that changes things with their mere presence
Hold fast to this child. 

The first 8 hours in room 102
The beginning hours of the career through which I’d dreamed I’d be
This powerful agent of change
And I felt powerless in front of the boy that loomed over me as if I was some deranged
Person who demanded that he participate in a class wide diagnostic so I could assess and we would be partners in his progress

We both dripped in sweat, the school was melting in this heat and anger and tension
Rooted in power control authority and suppression of the child
At hour 3 this child stared me down and stated with authority
It’s as hot as a wet ass stripper and he threw his pen on the floor and
He planted something in me on day one I couldn’t ignore
a doubt and a fear that this perhaps couldn’t be done
And in this moment in hour three I began to break their wings by demanding that this child
Who was as hot as wet ass stripper
Embrace the 80 question diagnostic, Sit down, be quiet, better get used to it

In hour three the child slipped by me
Replaced with such things as diagnostics and daily objectives were necessary for their futures
For their livelihood and successes
The rest of child was pushed into the deep enclaves of my mind where it would reside a dying light barely visible even to those that searched

The child. Hold fast to it. Create it with me.

My story. The doubt was so small at first but it grew from hour three, and ultimately expanded as I became one of  the adults that
Drew forth and created not a space for the child
But one of compliance mistrust and hatred
I became a part of this and I’m not sure why
This work had broken the wings of those that had entered holding fast to the vision of the child but instead held were told to hold fast to a checklist of items
Like Objective on the board, documentation, benchmarks, benchmarks, benchmarks
These items on the checklist,
 that no one could explain the validity of other than the mere presence of the item on the list, the reasoning was buried somewhere deeper than the child
But if we could do at least this, if we could just do these things on the list…an “education” at its finest?

Were we validated in this? Did we find pride, comfort, joy fulfillment in this list?
Were we creating, unafraid to be messy and passionate
Were we changing anything with our mere presence
Or perhaps was the essence of this place and our work and this checklist of compliance
so far removed from the child that we were wounded and wounding simultaneously every day
A wounded generation we are and we create in the name of education

And of what adults would you not say such things? How many grown men and women would you defend as true protectors of the child? For if education requires compliance submission in some skewed sense
of expectations or tradition, can the wings of a child ever be repaired? Or are we all scared fearful and somewhat lifeless as a result of this education that was intended to prepare
Prepare us for stagnation

My story. Creation innovation and joy are not born from this. These things are buried. With my joy buried with myself suppressed and the unexplainable inability to speak up or to change it I asked myself almost on a daily basis
Fight or flight?
Will you fight for the child it’s buried in your mind if you haven’t forgotten it it hasn’t died yet.  Hold fast to it.

So fight or flight?
Is it really possible for a school or a system to provide for that child the things that would free them
From the suppression of this feel bad education in which compliance has replaced everything
We once valued about our children

Could it be like schools in Harlem in which children have a voice
Could we provide meaningful work that transcends the classroom and fosters our children so they are not living in a vacuum of standards and tests
But instead that one of the best things they will do is produce something of excellence
One of the best things they will do is solve world problems with their classmates
One of the best things they will do is change their communities in Baltimore

Do we have the ability to listen to the child to trust the child with these things
Or can we only trust them to bubble in the test

Picture the child. The child that creates and is messy and passionate
The child that changes things with their mere presence
If we don’t believe that it is possible to foster this to not suppress this to celebrate the this child
If we don’t believe that it is possible
If we don’t believe in ourselves and our colleagues and humanity
Or if we believe but stay silent, choosing flight
Then why are we here
What are we teaching
And who do we want our children to become

I’m asking you to picture the child. The child that creates and is messy and passionate
The child that changes things with their mere presence
Hold fast to it. Create this with me. 

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