From the Inside Out, Naturally.
Jumping through hoops
to have to do a lot of things that seem difficult or unnecessary in order to achieve something
To me, school was just a hoop you had to jump through to get to another hoop. And if you jumped through enough hoops, you would find yourself in the real world. And in the real world, there are no more hoops.
I have always struggled with the expectations of school. I would try my best to follow criteria and somewhere along the way, I would veer off into my own world. These hoops felt arbitrary to me. Pointless. Purposeless. Unnecessary. As a student, I never “strived” in the classroom. I worked so hard every year just to feel inadequate.
Psychologist Peter Grey claims that:
“Evaluation, when it is not asked for, and when it has consequences as it does in school, is a threat. It narrows the mind... it inhibits new learning, new insights, and creative thought—the very processes that some people think school is supposed to promote.”
I had open attention (now realizing, not a flaw). I was unable to focus in on things I didn’t care about and would adjust the criteria according to my interests. I couldn’t conform. Anyone who knows me understands that the “wild” in me can’t be tamed. I went home with stomach aches, headaches and anxiety attacks—all because I was constantly being measured and objectified by another person. My teachers had the power to rank me. I was living, learning and judging myself from the outside in.
This makes me think about all my peers back then who were performing to a T to get their A. Were they really “succeeding”? Was being on the honour roll really an honour? As Carol Black would put it, “They’ve won the prize, and lost their power.” We were all being depreciated.
Genuine learning happens from the inside out.
My experience as a student was a BIG catalyst for my next endeavour: teaching. But as a student-teacher, I had the same problem. I didn’t agree with the way I was taught to learn and I didn’t agree with the way I was taught to teach. To plan everything to a T: from hook to closing, step-by-step, completely curated baloney. I was bored. The kids were bored. There was no room for authentic learning experiences. No room for the students to figure out who they were and what they wanted from their education.
I still remember leaving the first day of my practicum in tears, for myself, and for the kids. I saw a student’s drawing get ripped up because he coloured a leaf purple. A journal entry got tossed in the garbage because it wasn’t the “theme” they were supposed to write about. Do we seriously believe that if a student doesn’t measure up to some predefined standard that the kid isn’t succeeding? If we think about learning this way, one input = one output, we are missing out on all the good stuff in between. The guts of learning. So on my first day of teaching my initial thought was, “Okay, quit. This clearly isn’t for you.” Second thought, “Do you throw away the hoops and see what happens?”
The less I controlled as a teacher the more my students contributed. The more effort they put in. The more engaged they were. All of a sudden, my students were learning from the inside out.