Saturday, August 14, 2010

If You Have One Eye On The Goal, You Only Have One Eye On The Path

Upon occasion I've used this blog as a soapbox for offering my opinions on institutionalized schooling in America and expressed my frustration as a teacher who, quite frankly, is on the outside looking in. Here is a remarkably clear-sighted view from the inside:

This is a brave young woman, I think, to stand there before her friends, teachers, and loved ones to offer this critique on the day she is being honored for being the best and the brightest. I'm guessing she got scolded afterwards for being insufficiently grateful, for being inappropriate, for being rude. And I'm guessing she knew she was setting herself up for those criticisms. How many of us, as 18-year-olds, could have had the wisdom, let alone the courage to give this speech?

Of course, she didn't come to be standing there in her graduation gown with such a clear perspective on her own accomplishments without the help of teachers along the way, ones who stepped outside the dictates of state mandated curriculum, standardized tests, and goal oriented education, and nudged, prodded, and challenged her. The best teachers are always the ones who are at least a little subversive.

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen?"

The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years."

The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast. How long then?"

Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years."

"But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student.

"Thirty years," replied the Master.

"But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student, "at each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?"

Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

I hope that she goes off into the world, has great adventures full of catastrophic failures and soul-lifting successes, then one day returns to teach our children.

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Pam said...

VERY nice! My 17 year old will appreciate this as well

child central station said...

Thanks Tom!

Life with Kaishon said...

She was brave.

Juliet Robertson said...

Wow! She must have spent ages on that speech! I think she's being very critical of herself...she's started thinking and that's the beginning of a real education.

In Scotland, we've abolished out national tests. I'm pleased about this as they were a farce. I've been a principal of 3 schools in my time, and I had to work very hard to reassure staff that I was looking for great classwork and engaged, motivated children - not high test scores and children who could parrot talk.

What is really important is that we teachers should not be afraid to be honest about where our children are at. We need to strive for the best and continue talking, learning, laughing, loving and living so that we, as teachers, learn along with the children, to give them the genuine support they need to get through life, not just school.

(Sorry, I'm on a rant here)

Marilyn623 said...

Wow...that makes feel a little sad and deflated... There is truth to what she says but how can we make the changes that support her vision? Losing standardized testing is certainly the beginning. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have students educated in such a way where learning for the sake of learning is enough.
Tom...I see that what you do in your preschool definitely allows and supports this. Keep up the good work!

Saya said...

Thank you for showing this video to us... I am shearing it with my friends as well.

Morgan said...

I thought the same thing when I first read/heard this speech, "She should become a teacher." What an "outside of the box," "non-cutesy bulletin board," motivated, and inspirational teacher she would be. I hope she uses her own speech to DO something...

G-sus said...

brilliant stuff! Great to hear Gatto name-droped and that he is obviously still making an impact :)

ako said...

made my day! Lets hope sh becomes a teacher... big ups to Gatto for not 'dumbing down' this student.

Geoff H said...

That anecdote makes a lot more sense to me than the usual "Never take your eyes off the goal" (or you'll get distracted... or whatever) kind of corporate lingo we come across all the time. The speech was refreshing in its originality.

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