Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I've recently decided it's critical to reflect on your own school experiences if you've deciding to become a teacher. How can we impact the experiences of our students without truly understanding our own?

In talking with teachers, I often find they've become educators for one of two reasons:
A) Because they loved school and the teacher(s) they had growing up
B) Because they found school boring, and had little connection to their teacher(s) growing up

I definitely fall into the B category. While very successful in school, I found it to be a trivial and contrived exercise. Don't get me wrong -- I loved the idea of school. Absolutely loved it. From kindergarten through college, I enjoyed every minute of it, but it had very little to do with the content. I was social, and being around my friends made me happy. I didn't find school to be difficult, and it didn't take long to figure out "the game."

Generally speaking, I could float through the academics, and enjoy the social aspects as I pleased.

This got me thinking...

If I so vividly remember the approach I took to school, how can I use that experience to understand the experiences of our kids? Maybe I can't. Truthfully, though, I have to believe that the more I understand the kid-me perception of school, the more the adult-me can react accordingly.

So here's what I did. I wrote down every single memory from kindergarten through 12th grade. Every single one.

I purposely left out social interactions (locker chat, lunch room conversations, out of school events, etc). Honestly, I remember a whole lot more of these. 

Instead I focused entirely on academic memories -- and only included social aspects if they directly impacted the structure or depth of my learning.

My conclusion: I put a lot of effort into recollection, and in the end, I don't remember a whole lot. I had smatterings of lessons here and there...a teacher's comment...an activity...a class...

It's astounding how little impact those 6 hours a day had on my long term memory.

What does it mean? 

I'm not sure. I can't imagine it's a good thing.

I don't want to get too idealistic, and I can certainly put into context the memory prioritization of an adolescent. That said, I can't deny my disappointment. For all the hard work and thought adult-me puts into making our schools engaging and full of impact, I don't see that impact's prevalence at all in my own experiences.

Am I overreacting?

Yeah, maybe.

But I refuse to believe this is a forgone conclusion. I truly believe we as teachers can have lasting impact on our kids. That learning can be profound and long term. That experiences can be relevant and always remembered. That what we do today will matter 20 years down the road. 

Impact. Remembered. Profound. Matter. 

I remember a lot of things as a kid, but school just wasn't one of them.

So there we go. I'll say it and I mean it...

I want school to be a place worth remembering.  

--- If you're curious, you can read all of my kindergarten through 12th grade memories by clicking HERE. Don't judge ;) ---

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