Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Element

I read a book recently that had me thinking like an educator. The Element, written by Ken Robinson, was given freely to my parents who were members in the audience during a radio broadcast. I borrowed the book thinking that it would be an interesting diversion from the elementary school books that I had more frequently read. The words prompted both my thinking and good discussion.

What does it mean to be in your element? How do you feel when you are not in your element? Are we doing a disservice to children by putting them into preset categories expecting them to perform and succeed in areas that are not within their element? Have we failed to educate the individual and produced classes that meet a norm? These and other questions swam in my mind as I read.

Having been a classroom teacher before my children were born, I truly understand the nature of classroom teaching. It is truly rewarding to influence children and to see them learn. It is also very frustrating at times to have to push through to meet certain school criteria. In one class, I will have those who thrive in the group, while others require one on one attention. Some love hands on lessons, while others would prefer to read their way through. Some children would learn best while standing or moving, while others would enjoy the quiet of a comfy chair with soft music playing. Oh, the challenges that ensue when teaching a classroom of wonderfully created children.

How many children have been left out because their strengths lie outside the norm of the classroom? Please understand that I am truly a traditional teacher. I myself thrive on structure and clear objectives. I do wonder, however, if there is a better way to educate our children that truly highlights their God-given bent in life.

For instance, The Element points out individuals in our culture who have done horribly in the traditional classroom and yet have succeeded in worlds of art, music, theater, dance, and writing. What changed for them that allowed their success to be apparent? In many cases, someone noticed their strengths and mentored them. Often they found others whose bent was the same and who learned the same way. Frequently, it takes a risk to step out of the norm. Are we too comfortable in our educational model to step out of the norm?

Again, I understand that I speak on a level of improbability. In my opinion, there needs to be a level of structure and standards. Not every child is going to WANT to learn math, or reading, or history, or any other subject. I do believe that there is something to be said regarding learning for the sake of learning. My concern lies in the fact that we have squelched many by filling their academic schedules to the point that they are unable to stretch themselves in areas that fit their bent.

God in his creativity has put children on this earth who do not fit the norm. These blessings have purpose and are gifted in various areas to glorify their creator. In other words, God has given each of us an element in which to thrive. When we are in the midst of God’s perfect will for our lives, we are where we need to be.

I have the privilege and challenge to educate our children at home. Often, I too struggle with filling certain requirements. I succumb to teaching the same curriculum year after year. I have been heard telling a child to sit down, be quiet, and do it the way I said. Not that any of those formats is wrong at any given time. The problem comes when I try to fit every child every day into my one educational model.

Homeschooling comes in many shapes and sizes. You can visit ten homes and find ten different ways to school. Flexibility is one of the beautiful reasons I do what I do. Finding the element in which my children learn challenges me to stop, think, and be willing to change. God has led our family to educate at home. I need to trust Him that he will enlighten me to the elements in which my children can thrive.

When I am teaching, I am in my element. I look back and see that had been established since I was a little girl. I taught my dolls. I was the one who wanted to stay in from recess to help the teacher. I worked as a tutor. I ministered in Awana, Bible clubs, and vacation Bible schools. There was only one thing I wanted to be – a teacher. It was definitely my natural bent. As I was a student, I could have done many things and probably done them well. However, I don’t believe that I would have truly succeeded and been validated had I been outside of that God-given element.

Maybe, I have rubbed your thinking the wrong way. Possibly, I have given you food for thought. Perhaps, you, like I, struggle with the best way to educate our children today. Thank God that He will never leave us or forsake us. He does not leave us in this world to figure life out on our own. His Word guides us throughout all life. Our creator God has a purpose for each of us and we can trust him to lead us in this mammoth responsibility of parenting and educating.


Jodi said...

You have definitely given me "food for thought". I considered teaching when I was younger, but took another path, then ended up at home teaching my own anyway. I'm so glad that HE knows what He's doing with me, even when I don't have a clue! It's comforting that God is in control, and that I can trust in Him. Great post!

Tammie said...

well said.