Posted on May 2, 2012 - by

Share Your (Mis)Education Story!


I’ve started a new documentary, PLAY (working title), and want your feed-back!

A couple months after FRESH’s release, I gave birth to Maayan. And two years later, Sasha was born. They have brought unprecedented joy into my life. Maayan and Sasha are perfect, the way, I believe, all children are. They shine, they are self-assured, they are curious, they are happy. So I watch with dread children a little older who have lost some of their spark, some of their confidence. Children who already feel anxious about learning by the time they reach third grade, some already feeling “dumber” than their friends, some having to curb their natural excitement and energy so they can sit for hours on end “learning,” instead of playing and exploring.

As Maayan is getting close to school age, I’ve been researching and learning more and more about our current educational system. It’s become clear to me that our antiquated system of education no longer meets the needs of children or society. We are stuck with an “industrial” system of education that requires all children to learn the same information, at the same time, in the same way, ignoring the incredible diversity of personalities, learning styles, talent and desires that our children exhibit. A system that values some forms of intelligence (logical/academic) over others (emotional, artistic, practical, etc.), leaving so many of us unseen and devalued. My research has lead me to think that our educational system, one that used to be the best in the world, one that built this nation, is now no longer educating our children, but is instead preventing our children from reaching their full potential.

Like our industrial food system, our educational system is broken. In PLAY, I hope to open people’s minds and hearts to the possibility and potential of a radical shift in our thinking about education, the way I did in FRESH for food.

As I develop this new project, I’d like to hear your stories: what is your and/or your child’s experience in school?

Please read below for examples of stories I’m looking for and send me your story by emailing me at ana@FRESHthemovie.com.

Thank you in advance for your contribution. I look forward to hearing your stories!

Ana Joanes



Here are some questions that might guide you in sharing your story. But please don’t limit yourself, if you feel like my project speaks to you (either because you agree or you don’t), please email me and share your thoughts.

Your (mis-)education story:

  • Were you made to feel stupid? Were you tracked at an early age because you were not “good” in academic subjects? Did you drop out because school didn’t seem to be a good match for you? Were you told that what you want to do is not valuable? Did you learn to fear or dislike math or other subjects (or all things school-related)? I’m looking for stories of people whose talents and strengths were not recognized in school and who, instead, were made to feel bad for not learning how and what is valued in our school system. Would you say that your self-worth is still tied-up with the way your teachers treated you? Are you still looking, or have you given up looking, for a way to express your potential in life? Or have learned since what you are good at and have found your place/ your element.
  • Were you good at school? excelled in all the way you were supposed to? did you end up in the best college and then best graduate school (law school? med school?). Only to end up in a job you don’t really like? are you now stuck — well-paid and with all the status but still unfulfilled? Do you not know what you’d like to do instead, but wish you could find a more meaningful occupation? or perhaps you took a radical turn and are now following your bliss?
  • Did you have a great time at school? how did your school meet your needs? did your teachers see you and help you achieve your potential? in what way? did you develop your love for learning? self-knowledge? communication skills? creative potentials?
  • Do you believe you’ve got no special talent and that you’re not particularly creative? If so, can you trace when you started feeling that way?

Your child’s (mis-)education story:

  • Is your child’s special talent and learning style recognized and nurtured or ignored and dismissed?
  • Is your child excited to go to school or dreading it?
  • Is your child learning about him/her-self, developing his/her confidence, his/her ability to communicate with others?
  • Did you have to take your child out of school? why? what happened since?

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59 Comments

We'd love to hear yours!

  1. Greg said:

    I am excited about your new project! I love to learn and read but school was always a mixed bag for me. I had severe migraines in elementary school that may have been tied to stress. I am above average intelligence, but some classes were just boring so I checked out mentally and because grades were not important to me I did not perform well unless challenged by a good teacher. The problem is that not very many teachers took the time to challenge me.

    My wife and I have decided to homeschool our four children. It has been very good so far because our oldest had developmental delays that would have gotten her tagged into the special needs group. We are able to tailor her studies to her abilities. She is excelling in math and a bit behind in reading and writing. She is very much the artist so we are glad she enjoys her math studies. What we like most about home schooling is than no one knows our children better than us, so we feel we can best tailor their educational experience to their unique needs. A big focus of out early education is character building because a highly educated person with poor character is not very useful to society. We want our children to be aware of others around them and know how to be compassionate and caring. We feel the current education system is failing miserably both in academic and character instruction.

  2. Nichole said:

    I am excited about your new project as well.

    I personally had a very hard/harsh 6th grade teacher, who did make me feel like I was not smart and that I coukldn’t do things. I was singled out and punished on a weekly basis.

    The tragic thing is – I believed her. The reality is I actually have an IQ in the 140 range. I just never knew it. Because of her assessment, I never thought I was smart enough to go to college or toenter the career field that interested me.

    Glad to say I am 40, have 4 college degrees and have spent many years in the career field that interested me!

    As a parent I had many of your same fears and frustrations. I have sent my children to a Montessori pre-school, where they have shined! The teaching approach is non-competetive and allows and encourages them to learn at their own pace – when they are ready! My son is super fast at learning and is moving ahead fast, my daughter is going at a much slower pace, but both get the support and encouragement that they need.

    Sadly, our Montessori only goes to Kindergarten, so we have decided to homeschool after that. We hope to build on the Montessori approach in our Homeschooling. A loving supportive and nurturing environment will encourage them to learn out of a love for learning and an interest to know more.

    Thank you for your hard work in this important area!

  3. Heidi said:

    It might not be at all what you’re looking for as a model, but have you looked into all the recent attention about Finland’s success? I was totally hoping for more information and this is not the original article I read, but… here is one: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/ I am fascinated by their approach and, if nothing else, agree with the previous “posters”- your new project is an awesome idea!

  4. Amy said:

    I actually loved school. I enjoyed my teachers. I did have one in 6th grade who treated the boys harshly. It seemed that the girls got away with everything. I was a shy kid, but I did well in school. I was bullied a bit, which stuck with me. How could someone who I thought was my friend treat me like that? I was one of those kids in nomans land. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t one of the outcasts. I had my small group of close friends and that was fine with me. My parents on the other hand did squash some of my enthusiasm. My mother, in particular, became very concerned about appearances. Make up and hair had to be a certain way. I became very self concious because of this.

    As for my children, many people comment on how lively and friendly they are. My daughter is 7 and my son is 3. People also say they are very social. You see, we homeschool. Many people would say that home schooled children are not very social. That is not true for us. My children love to go up to anybody they meet and start a conversation. They are both very lively and playful. School is an adventure. In fact, we take each moment to find a new adventure. The newest is baby birds on our porch! We did not put our child in public school because I knew she would get into trouble. She loves to sing and dance. She is a kinesthetic learner, so I allow her to do what she needs to get the energy out. I allow her to sing and dance while reciting her math lesson. It’s ok. She’s learning after all.

  5. Walter Goodman said:

    Ana,
    This is a great and much-needed project! I am thrilled you are doing this? A couple of questions, and will write you at more length about my experience and that of my sons in public schools. Do you know the work of John Taylor Gatto? He was twice New York State teacher of the year, but over time became very disenchanted, did a lot of research, and now is one of the most scathing and insightful critics of the way we trap kids in prison-like schools, which are mostly about behavioral conditioning, teaching children to repress their natural instincts to be active, to create, and to question the way things are. Have you seen the film ‘The War on Kids’, which is a very chilling look at this behaviorism and zero-tolerance policies? The best antidote I know of is the burgeoning but small movement of democratic free schools, in which kids study what interests them, but are never coerced into doing work. The belief is that most problems in school and out result from kids not having enough time to PLAY. Students, especially younger ones, often play the entire time they are at school. Like Summerhill in England, Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, or The Free School in Albany, NY, which have inspired so many others. I will forward your email to many contacts, including AERO, the Alternative Education Resource Oranization (www.educationrevolution.org).

  6. Brian said:

    Perhaps in your research you will discover that our society greatly undervalues teaching as a profession, and is unable to attract the best and most talented teachers. If indeed the system is broken, as YOU say, then please take this into consideration. I do not agree with you that we have a broken system; maybe because I am from the Northeast? I got a great education and believe my children are getting a great education. There are excellent opportunities to excel, explore their talents, and reach their full potential. At the same time, they get help where they need it.
    Right now it is the State and Federal Government that is creating a one size fits all model, dictating curriculum, and a “teach to the test” mentality.
    Educators should be providing an environmnet for differentiated instruction with the incorporation and infusion of technology so students’ education is more like the demands of the workplace.
    I hope that you will take the time find all the good things that are happening in education, and explore the models that are working, before damning the entire educational system! Based on what I read in your introduction here, you are part of the problem. The system is broken because you say it is broken. The system is broken because politicians say it is broken. If you are a politician, and want to get re-elected, just mention ‘educational reform!” Heads will turn.
    As our society changes, so do the demands placed on the educational system; and there must be response to that change. Why not focus on finding out what works and where it is working, rather than promote this idea that our entire educational system is failing.
    America still provides the best education to the masses, and can always do better. Maybe take a look at a failing society, and it’s affects on the educational system; poor diet, lack of disipline, an “I want it now” attitude, self entitlement, etc.

  7. Cheryl said:

    I will be looking forward to seeing this! The public school system is SO lacking! I came out of school with no idea what I was good at. What my “gifts” were. Went to college, have a degree, got a job. Pretty good at it, but wasn’t “it.” I want my children to live their dream! Be what they are GREAT at and love to do. Can’t get there without nurturing their gifts! We’ve decided to pull them out of public school. There is so much more they need to learn besides the “standard” education public school provides!

  8. Vincente Belenson said:

    As far as I know, the only educational “system” that comes even close to addressing the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the growing child is Waldorf pedagogy. I taught for 33 years in Waldorf and Rudolf Steiner schools and my two sons were educated in the Waldorf School. One must keep in mind that although the pedagogy itself is unassailable in its integrity, individual human beings are the teachers and administrators of these schools which are found all over the world and so this or that particular school may have its shortcomings. There is a lot on the Internet about Waldorf education, some of it excellent information, some of it pejorative opinion, and most of it just in-between commentary, so a researcher into Waldorf has to weigh everything carefully and make up his/her own mind. A personal contact with a particular school is probably the best way to go. But, again, the pedagogy itself is outstanding and, I believe, unique.

  9. Alexi said:

    My elementary aged daughter was given the instruction to draw an airplane in art class. She proceeded to draw the outline of a conventional airplane and then filled the outline with colorful, happy pink polka dots. When the teacher came around to look at the work the kids were doing, she scolded my daughter saying “everyone knows airplanes don’t have pink polka dots” in a harsh tone. Several students looked on as my sensative daughter shrank from the harsh criticism and from then on, art class was her least favorite subject. When I approached the art teacher about the subject of creativity, she responded that “we embrace creativity in our classroom” with a smile on her face. Wow, talk about mixed signals. Not all public education has these issues, but this school which is a highly rated school in an educated community (Boulder, CO) needed some serious help. If creativity was being suppressed in the art room, what were other classes like? We have an antiquated education system that is corporate driven. In the post-agricultural era, companies wanted good factory workers who could sit still for hours on end, follow instructions and fall in line. We still use that model today.

  10. Mike Gray said:

    If you haven’t already watched the TED Talks video by Sir Ken Robinson, would definitely recommend that as it covers some good info about education and how we are removing creativity and out-of-the-box thinking during the educational process.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html

    http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.html

    Thanks for FRESH! Best of luck on your new endeavor too!

    Mike Gray

  11. M. H RAHMAN said:

    In the present system there is no lesson for moral value and no teaching for show respect to Teacher / parents / elders.

    We see in practical life gradute from Harvard doing biggest corruption in history as they don’t learn about moral value or dignity.
    It teaches mechanism to make money at whatever means may be.

    Thanks.

  12. Waltraud said:

    Hi Ana,

    I am thrilled that you are taking a closer look at our educational system. I have 3 children that are attending public schools after starting out in a Montessori private school. It is hard to see how my children are loosing the interest to learn and grow while they exhibit perfect curiosity outside of the classroom. All 3 of them are different but are expected to act, learn and behave the same in school. In order to help one of my children who is extremely bright we needed to establish an IEP so his needs can be met. I was educated in Europe and have the opportunity to see the education of some of my extended family members abroad right now. We are learning less in this country but keep students longer in school (while many hours are wasted with celebrations and movie watching during the school year), give excess homework that creates havoc for the family life and add undue stress to our children.
    There are some great teachers that go above and beyond their call of duty. On the other hand there are teachers you just can’t be bothered to do their job. I am all for protecting the needs of the teachers but if you can’t let a teacher go because they are tenured even though they are doing a lousy job there is something wrong with our system.

  13. Cindy said:

    I went into the first grade without having gone to kindergarten. I did not know my colors by name,I probably did not know the alphabet nor could I write my name. I used to get so frustrated with school work that I would stuff my desk with unfinished work and go to the back of the room to grab the fun projects we could do when our work was done. I remember the day my teacher came to my desk and discovered my unfinished work while I was at the back choosing the next creative project I wanted to complete. I felt shame & stupid. Somehow I managed to get to second grade. But at the end of that year, struggling, they held me back for repeat. I was devastated. The second time around things got better, I was a year older instead of the youngest but I still struggled. I could not tell time. My father out of sheer frustration after attempting to teach me told me I was stupid. I believed him. Math was a mystery. Reading got better as I got older. Memorizing was impossible and to this day I still do not know my times tables. In high school I scraped by in math class, barely learned to type and when I graduated I figured all I was good for was getting married and running a household. I discovered at 33 I was dyslexic and had dyscalculia ,which is transposing numbers ,when I was living with a family and helping tutor their twin daughters who were severely dyslexic. I am creative and artistic but have never really done anything with this talent. Although at 55 I am finally aware that I am smart, the stigma of feeling stupid still lives within. Discovering my dyslexia finally helped me be OK with not knowing which way to turn the key into the door lock even though I had done it a hundred times before or being useless when trying to read a time table at the train station or airport. What is funny is that I am now teaching at a Business Hotel & Management School. I am one of the popular teachers. I adore my students. I love my work and am filled with passion for teaching communications, public speaking and management. If someone had told me in high school I would one day discover I am bright, articulate, intelligent and would become a teacher I would have laughed myself silly in disbelief. I sometimes feel sadness for the years I did not trust my abilities, never furthering my education or nurturing a career. But these moments pass quickly and I know that the next years in front of me will be filled to the brim with activity, love for learning, personal development and sharing my passion for life.

  14. Mary said:

    I really loved early grades. I remember all my teachers and the principal being very kind, sweet, and helpful. Arithmetic and math were always weak points, and I felt stupid if I didn’t get the answer fast enough, or correct, especially when called upon where I’d have to stand up and respond. At age 8 I worked on a one day TV show called The Loretta Young show & then I felt special, at age 10 I became one of the first Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club on TV show (1955) and did schoolwork at the Disney Studios & later Disneyland where we performed “live”, I applied myself minimally. Ultimately, it took 30 yrs. to get my 4 yr. degree while working f/t, rearing my 2 kids alone, and going to college at night. So happy to have a Bachelor of Science degree from Univ. of San Francisco ~ it is treasured!! :)

  15. Leah said:

    I loved Fresh and I applaud your new project.
    If you have not already seen it you need to see the talk given by Sir Ken Robinson at the 2006 TED Conference (google Ken Robinson Ted talks). It is about how schools kill creativity. It is sweet and funny and will totally blow you away. Everything he says is right on and he is obviuosly hitting a chord with people as it is the #1 most viewed TED talk with almost 10 million hits on youtube. People want change but don’t know how to get it. Thank-you for taking this on.

  16. Tonia Townsend said:

    First off I want to say… YEAH!! this is an awesome project you are looking into and I hope it goes well..
    I do believe the majority of public schools are seriously lacking. There maybe some bright spots around the country but for the most part they are trying to turn out cookie cutter kids when people are designed to be anything BUT the same…
    We thought when we had kids we would be okay in public school. It was a small school we knew many of the teachers and other people who worked there.. Boy were we wrong.
    Preschool went great.. All 3 of my girls came out above average.. It was during kindergarten things went sour.. When my 2 youngest went into kindergarten and my oldest 1st grade we were fairly certain things would improve despite the fact they wanted to hold my oldest back due to to many days missed. Nothing wrong with her test scores or AR scores.. just to many days missed. And I had already been over that with the School Superintendent. My oldest had been sick several times that year with strep. The teacher never would send home anything she missed because she said my daughter would catch it later… She didn’t..
    So we get about 3 months into 1st grade with my oldest and she is having difficulty reading. Along with tantrums on a regular basis.. They have put her into a reading Program to help with her reading. It was a one on one program that should have helped.. I was assured that there was a camera on at all times and everything was monitored. The teacher was extremely hateful and very condescending. My daughters behavior got worse.. Her regular teacher took me aside one day and said that when she had to send her to that class that my daughter got very teary eyed and red asking if she had to go.. I am now of the firm belief a child should NEVER dread learning..
    I removed her from the special class with MUCH difficulty.. Because unknowingly to me that got extra money for every kid that had special needs of some sort. Her regular teacher tutored her after school but at 6-7yrs old 8 hours is a long day.. by the end of the day you don’t get much done.
    In the mean time my other 2 daughters are having issues.. Same teacher as my oldest from kindergarten. I started researching homeschool.. I didn’t think I wanted to do that but I was heartbroken over my girls and what they were struggling with. I had a teacher that wasn’t even in my oldest daughters class or anything to do with her calling a family member telling all that my oldest daughter had done wrong that day. She was doing this on a regular basis. I brought it to the Principles attention and she was reprimanded but that was it.
    This is when my husband and I had decided we would finish out the year and then start homeschooling the next school year.. BUT it has not been a walk in the park since then.. My kids had learned behaviors and did not like learning now.
    So when I tried to bring “school”home we were in for a fight.. Many tears and frustrations were along the way. We took a year off with little to no formal school work. Relaxed a little and figured out from there what worked for us.
    My girls are now happy teenagers who are doing well. Still struggling but not discouraged as they have found while they may not excel academically there is more to life. They have had more hands on learning and are improving almost daily. They have special interest and have a lot of confidence in many areas some we are still working on.
    While we are not perfect or intellectually superior we are working at common sense and morals. We have made family one of the most important things and not the things we have..
    Can these things be taught with out Homeschool? Most assuredly they can but this is what it took for us. Home,public or private schools are not any one size fits all.. Different things work for different people. Government tries to stick everyone into a mold and we just don’t fit.. Above all else this was God’s will for our family. We are happy to have taken this adventure with the people we love most in this world.. Our kids..

  17. Stephen Wood said:

    Hi Ana,
    A much needed and urgent project. We were lucky enough to have our daughter attend a Steiner school based on the teaching philosophies of Rudolph Steiner where a love for play, music, art and education is instilled throughout their school years. Reading and arithmetic are introduced gently. One of the most outstanding aspects of this system is the lack of
    day to day competition between the students instead they saw each other as friends and appreciated each others differences admiring the individual contribution that each of them brought to the class. If only we had found this school in time for our older boys. I am sure they would have had a much richer and more joyous and positive education experience.

  18. Fran said:

    I have two children who until this year both attended public school. My older child still attends public school and does well there, but the younger one now attends a private school in the neighboring city (a 15-minute drive). There are no private schools in our town, so the single public school or homeschooling are the only reasonable choices for many families. The public school has about 300 students per grade, so it’s not an especially small school, however I find that it provides fewer academic enrichment options than many smaller nearby school districts. My son, while a 3rd-grader in public school, was found to read at an 8th grade level, and was accepted into the Gifted and Talented (GT) program. GT consisted mainly of busywork, like making a diorama, or writing 2 sentences as part of an article in the school newsletter. He decided to leave public school this year in 6th grade, when he spent almost half his class time reading a book, because he had finished his work while the teachers were still helping his classmates try to learn the material. He has felt all along that his academic gifts were not appreciated by the teachers, and were looked down upon by the other kids. In our local public school system, before 7th grade there are no opportunities for academic enrichment or extracurricular activities. In 7th and 8th grade, there are enrichment opportunities in math and science only, and they get much less attention from the school than sports do. In neighboring towns smaller than ours, even elementary students compete in academic competitions and other enrichment programs. Our town is very sports-oriented, and many kids play sports outside of school. Apparently, the schools feel like nothing else is needed. My family is fortunate that we can afford private school, and our schedules permit driving my son there and driving my daughter the other direction to the public school. I am very concerned for those academically gifted kids who could benefit from attending a different school, but whose families are dependent on public-school amenities like bus transportation or reduced-price lunches. Those families may also not have the resources to homeschool. If my son had remained in this school system, he probably would have eventually dropped out to get an early GED, or turned to self-destructive behavior.

  19. Lynn Magnuson said:

    Hi;

    My early education was a complete disaster. I was in grade school, junior high and high school before the education system really knew about learning styles and learning disabilities. And anyone who was learning in a different way was not only made to feel stupid, but also shunned by other students. My gifts were in creative things such as photography, writing and now I’m studying to learn film making. NONE of these was even recognized as a child and the way math classes were taught made me hate the subject even though an earlier teacher who was more progressive thought I could do well in it! I spent twelve years in a SEGREGATED special education program where we were not allowed to socialize in any way with “normal” students. It was like the leper colonies, or the segregated South. This gave me a terrible self esteem problem growing up, so much I’m still not sure of myself at times. The segregation was so extreme we were not allowed to go to the water fountain, lunch or recess with “normal” students. Of course, it made all of us feel like we were a total peice of crap! The experience only ended when I dropped out of college in 1970. A couple of years later, I began to go to college. I can tell you more, but I suspect there’s a size limit on these comment windows.

    Good luck with your project .. it sounds like a good one, and a needed one. I’ve got a few projects up my sleeve too, and am slowly working on an autobiography about my experiences in the school system, or excuse for one.

    Lynn

  20. Jean Canale said:

    What a wonderful and timely project! I liked school when I was growing up and learned how to fit in and play the game. I went all the way through grad school and did fine.

    Once I became a parent however and it was time to select a school for my two children I was introduced to homeschooling. I went down the rabbit hole and life has never been the same. I read about mis-education, interest based learning, self-designed curriculum and more. I learned about and saw many instances of how we all learn to shut down in order to survive the school scenario — much of which has nothing to do with learning how to learn…but learning how to fit in — in all ways. I am graduating my youngest child in a few weeks and will close the homeschooling chapter of my life but it has been an enriching experience. My children have a strong sense of self and a love of learning — this was my goal.

  21. Valerie Cookson-Botto said:

    Ana,
    I am very excited about your project focused on our schools. I answer your question from the perspective of someone who grew up in a public high school in an affluent suburb of DC. Our school’s top national rating had more to do with the fact that the student body was made up of well educated families of diplomats and senators, than the quality of teaching that went on.

    I have a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance and have taught at universities and private k-12 schools. My experience teaching in public schools is minimal, as most of the public schools only offer dance as an “artist in residence” short term program if at all.

    I am also a mother who has seen from a parent’s perspective the challenges and rewards of private school as well as public school education. There are strengths and weaknesses in both of these types of learning environments. I feel our goal as a country is to take the best of both and make it available to all.

    I have seen the strength of a private school environment in their ability to personalize education for individual students, and their ability to be flexible and adaptive in ways that are difficulty for large public school. I have seen great levels of nurturing of cognitive, emotional and creative intelligence that surpasses what I have experienced at public schools.

    As a parent, I have watched as my child left the small class size and individualized care of a private school and entered the public school system. In comparison, the experience in the public school has felt like an educational factory where the teachers are assessed on the outcome of test scores, and the students aren’t individuals, but statistics on a chart.

    What our public schools seem to lack in personalized nurturing, they seem to excel through the power of numbers. Top ranked public schools seem to rise to the top due to the benefits that come from the sharing of massive resources. Our local high school is able to offer many AP courses that some of the private schools I taught at were unable to, simply because their population was to small to make the courses cost effective. Public schools are often able to offer more course diversity and higher level sections than private schools.

    I have always been struck by how physically unattractive most of our public school buildings are. Many resemble prisons with cinder block walls, and lock down doors, rather than places of inspiration. When the school isn’t in the business of “marketing” their educational experience, the appearance of the buildings and grounds aren’t give much attention. In contrast, private schools know that families will only choose their school to attend if it is an attractive campus with clean appealing buildings. It is a great time for public schools to look at not only the condition and appearance of school buildings, but also the sustainability and energy efficiency of these public buildings.

    There are great teachers, administrators, programs and schools out there in America and I am sure around the world. I hope you discover them and are able to bring their successes to us all.

  22. Pamela Reilly said:

    THANK YOU for doing this project. This will fill a huge need in our country. My kids had the privilege of being homeschooled for the first 6 years of their lives. As a homeschooling parent, I developed my own curricula, drawing from a variety of sources, and schooled in a way that incorporated education into studies of books the kids loved and things in the world that interested them. Allowing my kids to study their passions stimulated their creativity and created in them an ability to think on their own and solve problems very logically. I wish circumstances would have permitted me to continue schooling them in that fasion, but they did not.

    After homeschooling and the death of my husband, I was blessed to put my kids in a private school which was wonderful. The small class sizes and individual attention were perfect for them at the time. They spent four years there and then had to spend two years in a local public school. That experience was a nightmare. They were placed in a gifted program, but even in that environment they were bored. My daughter experienced extreme levels of persecution from a teacher who refused to allow the kids to exhibit any creativity. The end result of this was that my daughter had to repeat a grade simply because of her age, NOT because she was not completing assignments satisfactorily. Needless to say, I put the kids back in public school shortly thereafter. My daughter tested into the grade she had original been in and therefore basically got to skip a grade. It was insane that she was held back in one school and advanced a grade in the other and wound up exactly where she should have been. (Both of my kids are a year ahead of the national norm in terms of their age related to the grade they’re in. Both score above 99% on all standardized testing.)

    We moved both kids to a mainstream high school due to the limited classes and opportunities that existed in their private school. It was a huge school with many specialized programs, so both kids were able to pursue courses and lines of study for which they were passionate. In spite of that, I soon saw both kids’ love of learning disappear. My son learned to conform and do what he was told in order to succeed without trying; my daughter became so bored she stopped trying. The needless “busy work” that provided no learning value but which was constantly assigned was maddening for them and for me as a parent. (On a side note, most of the letters sent home by teachers – including the principal’s monthly update – contained horrific errors in grammar and spelling. Not very confidence-inspiring.) The end result is that my son graduated with honors and my daughter is finishing her final year in a self-directed online program which is better suited to her learning style. The bottom line is that most public schools suck the life out of kids and force submission and conformity instead of encouraging children to pursue their passions and think logically. There is no true learning, as grades are earned by memorizing information which is quickly forgotten. It is a system that is failing, yet no one is willing to address the problem. Thanks for letting me vent! I wish you so much success with your project!!

  23. Pamela Reilly said:

    Oops. Sentence midway through paragraph should have read: Needless to say, I put the kids back in PRIVATE school shortly thereafter.

  24. michael magleby said:

    My perspective is from being a teacher in a rural Northern California school of 375 students K-8.
    Being a PE teacher I was given the freedom to teach my own cirriculum using such material as, Terry Orlick’s cooperative games, creative instruction to physical ed by innovative teachers as Rudy Benton and Harry Glass. These PE classes were more than kickball and physical state required tests that measure a students ability to perform rudimentary activities of strength and endurance. (These are subjective and there is no real standard thus putting less developed students at a disadvantage, not a self esteem builder)
    We use multidisplinary activities to enhance each students ability based on their desire, aptitude and interest. They developed at their own pace competing only with their personal best.
    My latter years of teaching I moved into our designated homeschooling classroom in our public school which grew to 70 students, 2 teachers and
    an assistant administrator. In addition to guiding our students with their homeschooling curriculum we were able to offer PE and Art classes along with monthly field trips from birdwatching to museums(in the nearby big cities).
    So my point is, this was a very progressive public school that offered creative and open curriculums to include teachings from Montessori to Waldrof in the regular and homeschooling class room.
    It comes down to how the community would like to see their schools to become more diverse and creative.
    This story is living proof that it can be done.

  25. Noelle Imparato said:

    Late in life I discovered ‘at last’ a way to express my voice. It happened at a workshop at Esalen Institute lead by Michelle Cassou and called Paint and Passion. Michelle teaches adults to rediscover their creative child within by offering a safe space where their “Censor” can be set aside, so that people can get in touch with their deepest, darkest or brightest feelings and freely express them through forms and colors, regardless of their lack of mastering any artistic techniques. It was: paint like a child. This was so freeing for me that I came home and started painting ’till 4am every day. I am sleeping earlier now but I am still painting in that style and offering my work to the world. It has been a life saving experience. I am now offering workshops for this style of paintings to people around me as much as I can. I wish they would teach this kind of approach to painting at school, not only in private painting workshops.

  26. Dennis A. Matejka said:

    I think the biggest shock was when my daughter started school and I found her surrounded by other children (and by association their families) who did NOT have the same commitment, dedication, and value devoted to education. This was the REAL struggle, to convince her that it was important, even if it didn’t seem important to her friends. She is now entering her Senior year at Miami University, so maybe I didn’t do too badly after all!

  27. Dennis A. Matejka said:

    Typo in my previous listed e-mail address. This is the correct one if you need it/me.

    Sorry, and thanks.

  28. Geneva said:

    My mother taught me the basics of reading and math before I started school. Most that was worth learning, I learned on my own – certainly, a child today could, with Internet availability. Many (though not all) of my teachers were ignorant, mean or incompetent. As for the social milieu, my small town in Alabama was characterized by horrible bullying while teachers looked the other way, though some kids got it worse than I did.

    It was like a prison sentence that I eagerly awaited to end; by age 14 I already had all the skills that I would later use on the job, except for social skills acquired only by practice. At 16 I asked a school counsellor about a high-school equivalency diploma, which achievement tests showed I could have passed by age 11, but she lied and said there was no such thing. She knew I’d have been gone in a flash!

    College was more of the same – my “student assistant” in chemistry started by announcing that he’d never known a girl to do well in that class, and then made sure I wouldn’t be the first. One of my professors conned me into confiding in him, and then reported everything I said to his wife, who reported to my mother, causing a horrible uproar. I dropped out in the middle of the second semester and haven’t been back – which was just as well, since the science track had me headed for a career with Monsanto!

    HOWEVER, I was an over-protected and very poorly socialized child, and would have been even more so without school. Those were the years before school library censorship, so one could actually find books about sex and racial issues that would NEVER have been discussed in my home environment. And most of my classmates were NOT from backgrounds where they had a prayer of receiving good home-schooling. I did receive very good instruction in the rules of formal grammar, which have served me all my life – though the most effective delivery medium was a programmed workbook (which today would be a computer program). And I am grateful to my 2nd and 3rd grade teachers for not harassing me for being a “hyperactive” child, as would be done today. It is unspeakably cruel to force active small children to line up quietly on hard wooden seats for several hours a day.

    I understand that things are even worse today. That school has been closed entirely and kids are bused half an hour to a consolidated school half an hour’s drive away, where quality of instruction is even worse. The schools are sometimes the scene of gang warfare, and have taken to giving “Certificates of Attendance” as well as diplomas, so that students who faithfully kept their butts in the chair but failed to learn can participate in the ceremony. Of course, performance-based public funds have been cut back even more, and many parents have turned to home-schooling.

    My stepdaughter was more fortunate in that her small town in BC had French Immersion as well as an accelerated program for bright students. She enjoyed her school experience, and went on to get a Master’s Degree and become a teacher and published writer.

  29. Theresa Costello said:

    I love that you are doing this project. I hope you will look at schools that are changing direction and working on building 21st century skills. My son attends the Columbus Signature Academy in Columbus, Indiana. This school focuses on project based learning within a technology rich environment. It is worth looking at. Good luck.

  30. Annie said:

    My “mis-education story is a little different than my son’s but there are some similarities. I believe that my academic failure was perpetuated mainly from my mother who from neglect (not paying attention to the problem) and from her unceasing criticism blended with her insatiable need (somewhat Borderline Mother style!) to have her children “be Something” destroyed my lifelong ability to learn.
    Okay, that’s out of the way.
    My schooling, from K thru 12 was much the “industrial” method. I was in the public school system long before the terms “Special Ed”, “Learning Style”, or “challenged” were used. Everybody was treated the same. However, I believe that because the quality of teaching and academic expectation was so much higher during those years even I picked up more education than what we see happening to kids in today’s public school system. We hadn’t been “dumbed down” yet.
    By the time I was in High School the classes had grown so huge in the Los Angeles school system that I felt I was just a speck of dust to be swept away. I was holding about a D minus average, failing all the important classes and only doing fair in PE, typing and other clerical skills. “Important” because only college preparatory credits counted for anything. Art classes were for dummies who couldn’t make it anywhere else.
    I was one of those kids who did well on the SATs and yet flunked my classes. I repeatedly found myself in the principal’s office hearing the old mantra: “Annie, you are so smart. You can do better than this.” My reaction to that was always the same. To myself I would say, “Annie, you are so dumb you don’t even know that you are smart!—DOUBLE dumb! Nobody in charge had a clue about how to help this “smart” little girl. I was just sent back to my classrooms to repeat the same old failures.
    I did love many things that were offered me in school. I thought diagramming sentences was just a real fun game but I couldn’t handle the red marks where I got it wrong. I absolutely LOVED those special tennis lessons that my gym teacher gave me during lunch. She thought I had talent but we couldn’t keep it up and my mother, not paying attention, refused to even think about how I could get to and from after school sports where I could have really thrown myself into the game. Math intrigued me too but I was simply too gun shy to ask for help when confused. Again, no one seemed to care that I was flunking. I was becoming increasingly marginalized to the “just bad” category of students.
    Even though I was attracted to a lot of things that were taught in the classroom, I just didn’t have the kind of attention or focus or…whatever, to sit, listen and regurgitate the “right” information. I also had a horrible time focusing on my homework and so, through real tears, alone in my room (my mother still not paying attention) I left undone or thrown in the trash everything I attempted. Life became very frightening to me; I lived in constant emotional agitation, afraid of some unknown awful consequence of all my stupid-ness.
    Yes, I was made to feel stupid; even exceedingly embarrassed. In more than one situation, when I excitedly jumped out of my shy little cocoon and did something creative I was punished for it often in front of the whole class. I guess the teacher thought that embarrassment would cure me of my “silly” creation. Of course it didn’t; just made me hate school all the more.
    When my hormones erupted I felt another pull that seemed to hold an emotional and social pleasure that eclipsed all those frustrating and painful parts of my life. Naturally I fell into unhealthy things. It was the early 60’s and there was a lot to attract anybody who was tired of school and all the other required compliances of the day.
    The day before graduation I, with all the other anxious seniors scanned the wall-posted list of those who would be “walking”. I truly expected to not see my name on the list because I knew for a fact that I hadn’t earned enough credits in the “important” subjects. I was totally missing History, Government and Algebra. But, to my surprise, my name was up there and so I just quietly walked across the field, grabbed my diploma and ran! It was an over-crowded school system and I was a quiet failure that they just swept away.
    Yes, my self-worth is definitely still tied up with my childhood failures and how I was treated. Yes, I have pretty much given up looking for a way to express my potential—don’t feel I have one actually though I do like to write–can you guess?. Wish I had the gumption to do it more with a goal of publication. Sheeze, even writing that feels really bombastic on my part—like I have no right to even think that way.

    My son’s experience was similar, the difference being that he had a mother that, in spite of her fears of failure, guilt and shyness, was really paying attention…maybe too much!
    Same story: very bright boy, scored high on SATs but failed in grades. At several points along the way I took him out of school and homeschooled him. I really didn’t know what I was doing but I was so determined to not let him suffer like I did. I felt strongly that he had some awesome potential. He drove me and others a bit crazy with his seeming nervous “messing around with everything”. When in school he couldn’t sit still in class; would rather be helping someone else with there work than doing his own. He was VERY social and energetic.
    In our homeschooling I would often read to him out of a history or science book while letting him be completely absorbed in Lego building. Then I would give him an oral test on what I had read and he could answer everything almost perfectly. Writing was very difficult for him and his penmanship was atrocious! I worried about all this thinking it was all my fault. It wasn’t until later that I learned something about learning styles and began to understand where my son was at. Turns out he is kinesthetic and aural. Duh!A lot of my homeschooling “techniques” were the same as had been used on me. I was just thinking that what he needed was someone “paying attention”. …sigh…
    We put him in a private Christian school for 7th & eighth grade and he did pretty well there. He was in smaller classes and was very well liked by all his teachers. That school used a lot of the same teaching styles that we all know and hate but with the extra attention, special caring by the teachers and the quiet discipline in the classroom he was able to be just above average in his grades. After that everything fell apart.
    It didn’t take him but half a first year back in public high school to begin cutting classes and diving into the seedier activities of other kids doing the same. His behavior became even dangerous to himself and to others. These were some of the most frightening times of our lives. We were able to catch him and get him into a ranch school for troubled boys where he excelled in everything…even “running”! Yes, he was the boy who ran away from school the longest distance and the most times. He almost got kicked out but he was chased down and then, when he realized that he was cared for he quit running and after 18 months he left there with high honors and a much more realistic education. He came home to finish his senior year of high school but didn’t—no surprise there.

    Long story short…

    After some typical restlessness and foolishness between 18 and 26 he got full traction on those big feet, grabbed his GED practically over night, and now, at age 34 he is excelling in a management position and as a millwright at a steel mill having earned through his amazing energy in only 3 years, titles normally only given to men 20 years his senior. He loves learning and has been given several opportunities to attend classes to enhance his career. He’s (I’m going to cry now) a great dad to 3 kids, and great husband to a wild and energetic full-time mom woman, and a good provider. No thanks to the public school system. Only thanks to his parents who cared enough to pay attention! And thanks to that young man’s own energy and brightness. He amazes us! He still can’t sit still for very long!
    The only difficulty in all this is that during those “restless and foolish” years my son collected a lot of financial/legal problems that are still plaguing him (and his family) today. I believe he will work through those problems and I also believe that the school system could do a better job of preparing kids to avoid them in the first place—of course, the school system has to be an attractive place that might just hold a student’s attention long enough to teach some basic life skills. Ya think?

    Upshot…

    I think, because of where we are currently in our culture that the learning of degrees in higher education only works for a few. And even for them, the job situation is pretty unfaithful to these student’s efforts. I have also known plenty of young people who have degrees in things in which they, after getting to know them, show relatively little skill in the very subject they so willing pursued. Makes hiring them a real puzzle sometimes. In many businesses degrees mean nothing. Communication skills, social skills and a strong willingness to be creative and learn new things are what we look for.

  31. Kelly said:

    Middle of my freshmen year of high school I transfered to a mid-size (grad class of 60) privite, Christian school. I had a lot of catching up to do and I think that is where I learned to learn, learn to think at all, really. My husband did not learn much being homeschooled, but this high school made him VERY prepared for University. So much so that he held a full time job, had a family and farm to help with and had a full time course load. He is extremely successful for his age. We credit our privite, Christian, high school education for that.

    I now have 4 sons (ages 2.5-7) and my older two are in K and 1st and they go to a small (10 kids/grade)privite, Christian school. We tried homeschooling last year but with my husband working 80+ hrs per week and me having a 65 acre farm to run as well as the smaller children to care for, it was just too much. It is quite a financial sacrifice, BUT not when I think of the duty of raising future heads of households! Citizens that will contribute, not depend on the government for assistance!

  32. Deborah said:

    This is a great project for the times. There is a lot of reworking of the school system that is needed right now.

    1.Teachers and principals have figured out how to politicize the system and work it…..leaving the kids pawns in a huge bureaucracy.

    2. We don’t need to waste resources teaching everybody everything.
    In France, kids are partitioned at third grade to go into sciences and only they get a concentrated science education. Medical schools are no longer teaching some subjects like medical entomology, because there is not enough room in a four year program. New technology and pharmacology needs to be taught and there’s not enough time for it any more. I attended public elementary school in the northeast in the 60′s and I swear I was not taught history. No Civil War, no Revolutionary war, we covered the states in 5th grade but that was it. We covered reading, writing, arithmatic and science.
    Today, schools have already done away with cursive writing, and we’re adding computers. Other subjects need to go or be optional/electives depending on the student’s abilities and interests and future plans. Humanities oriented students don’t need higher math. (And yes, movie watching and parties should be minimized.)
    3. SOL’s have begot corruption and teaches the kids that cheating is ok….even teachers and principals do it.
    4. No child left behind is not practical or realistic and it’s costing too much money. We are letting down the population of students who will be running our society in 20 years or so. Gifted students are being taken care of, but the middle needs to be tended to and pushed harder.
    5. My last rant will be on group projects. This is a perfect way to hide slackers and make those who work feel undervalued and used. In a work place situation where people have to work together, each has to pull his load or they’ll get fired. (At least that’s how it would be in a company I ran.) But in schools, kids slack behind others and once again all you’re doing is creating cheaters and slackers along with resentful students who are doing all the work. But it’s easier on the teacher who only has to grade one project per handful of students. Not to mention it brings in a whole subjective grading scale so the teacher can give everyone A’s to make him or her look good.
    Once again we see who the system is working for…..everyone but the student.
    No child left behind has become All but the lucky Children left behind.

  33. Colleen O’Brien said:

    I learned to read early, before Kindergarden, because I lived in a booky house. My father read to his three daughters each night; he read in any spare time, and he read any thing.
    I was a good student and loved school; I guess the “good girl” role I was enculturated to play worked okay for me.
    But the most exciting thing I ever did in grade school was put on a puppet show, from making the puppets and stage and set to manipulating the puppets for the show. One teacher out of seven who inspired me to do what I wanted: unprecedented for the color-within-the-lines girl.
    I had one inspiring high school teacher (English and writing) and one inspiring college prof (Eng. lit).
    I needed more, I realize now, because I was such a good girl; whatever they said to do I did. I needed more outside the box, and I guess they didn’t know how to do that any more than I did.
    I’ve never quit seaching, reading, studying; a consequence of needing more, of quenching the thirst, of trying to find out what others had figured out about life that my formal education never fed me.
    When I returned to school at 50 simply to finish unfinished business, I fell into it like it was a vat of chocolate pudding. I studied philosophy and graduaed summa cum laude.
    That was prob’ly the beginning of me.
    Too bad so late, but not too late.
    I am a professional writer and copyeditor and artist.
    From a mundane “what will people think” life of Midwest Catholic to unbounded freedom at 68 has not been a bad trip. I acknowledge my really good education from the ’50s and ’60s, and even from the early ’90s, but I revel in what I have learned on my own.
    I’ve thought that the evolving of my life to this point of strength and acceptance of who I am was the result of the intrepidness that woman of my era come into once they’re over 50.
    But, I’ve been altering even that view; lately, I think the freedom and energy of my life now is because I needed more than the educational system gave me, and I became more a smartass autodidact than an educated fool resting on her degree in the traditional.

  34. Lenny said:

    I have to say that my son’s education is probably a good one. The school system where we live allow him to develop his skills. Music, arts, science! He has been recognized as a Gifted child and regardless of this recognition, I noticed he was always happy going to school. No complaints at all. I know nothing is perfect, and there is always room for improvement but at this moment my son’s accomplishments, and what I also see with his friends lead me to believe that the system is working well for they. Thank you for the opportunity. Lenny

  35. Emmy said:

    This is a really great project to shine some light on. I have often thought for quite sometime that if I had been encouraged to be curious and explore and play, I would have a very different life.

    Growing up, my parents were both high school teachers so naturally learning, getting good grades, and doing what I was expected was always #1 priority. My older brother struggled in school. He had to get tested for ADHD because he wouldn’t sit still, couldn’t concentrate and none of the teachers knew how to resolve this to get him to “learn” traditionally. As the middle child, I felt that I had to do well for my parents and teachers-I guess I put pressure on myself. In kindergarten, I recognized letters but did not understand reading. I went to public school starting in 1st grade. I didn’t know how to read simple words: the, cat, hat, sat, up, you, etc. My teachers and my parents plucked me from regular class, during math time mind you, to put me and four other classmates in a “special reading class” for extra help. We didn’t practice reading very much, we played board games, or blocks. My reading didn’t improve even though my parents put in extra hours and read to me every night. I was frustrated b/c I sensed I wasn’t “normal” and I didn’t want to put more strain on my parents b/c they already had their hands full with my brother. Anyway, somewhere in 1st grade, I was supposed to learn subtraction. I guess while I was in my “special reading class” I missed the subtraction lessons and I failed every math test after that.

    I was continually placed in the “special reading class” up until the end of 4th grade when I showed improvement with reading. But b/c of the pressure to read well, I learned to hate books. I still to this day, struggle finishing books out of pure bad memories of the pressure to read faster and faster. I am a slow reader, so what, but since a very young age, I developed a complex about it.

    In high school reading was always a sore subject with my parents (by the way my Mother loves, adores, embraces books to no end) and every summer, I struggled to finish my summer reading assignments even though I would read them everyday for 2 months straight. I was a fantastic writer, I had marvelous proof reading skills b/c I could read much slower over my work than most. I excelled in writing essays and that’s when my creativity came out, I had great imagination and could visualize a plot or a research paper. But since I couldn’t finish my reading homework for the evening, I had to guess on my pop quizzes or try to skim just to say I finished the assignment.

    When I was younger, I was fascinated by science. My Father was a geology & earth science teacher and I loved fossils! I loved walking up our driveway finding fossils in the limestone or going into the back yard and digging through a dirt pile. I collected rocks, feathers, bugs, and really anything that I thought was neat. My parents learned that even though I didn’t like to read and I wasn’t very good at math, I loved to build and create. I could follow directions for Lego sets. I began to feel I had some talent and I thought I was going to be an engineer or a geologist perhaps. But my dreams got squashed pretty quickly by my teachers and eventually my parents. My 4th grade teacher in particular did not take the time to realize I struggled with division and when I couldn’t finish my homework b/c I ran out of time, she just thought I was lazy b/c I excelled in every other subject-language arts, social studies, etc. My parents were smart enough to meet with the teacher, ask her why she would give a 4th grader 50 division problems a night to complete-and pointed out that I know it, it just takes me a little bit longer. I hated math more so than ever before b/c of this teacher, but my parents helped me. They got frustrated though b/c they had their own papers to grade and I was 10-11yrs. old staying up crying over math homework b/c I didn’t want to get punished or make my parents angry by always having to help me. It was rough, my confidence dropped, I started to act out on the play ground and bullied another kid even. I ended up getting a “D” in math-I was so afraid to show my parents my report card. I felt like I failed.

    Fast forward to junior high, I excelled, I loved all of my teachers, and I started to get over my inadequacies. My teachers took the time to encourage me, nurture my creativity, and my competitiveness not just with academics but with being active and playing sports. I ran cross country and I was fast as a member of the basketball team too. I felt like I found my place. That time was the high point of my academic career-or so I thought. In high school, I excelled fairly similarly, but since I excelled so much in other subject, I was placed in advance math classes. After my sophomore year, I was ranked 1st in my class of 198. But the advanced algebra got the best of me and I had a horrible, horrible teacher that didn’t explain things and joked about us all failing. I had my friends tutor me after school and on the weekends. I got C+, again, thought my parents would kill me. Senior year, I had a goal to be in the top 5 of my class. I got a horrible 4th quarter grade in my trigonometry class and I did fortunately hold my rank of 4th of 198 students. I felt so accomplished, even in the midst of obstacles.

    But when it came time to apply for college, I didn’t want to go, I was done with traditional learning, I wanted to use my hands, build, get dirty, but my parents argued with me for hours about how important it was to go to college-I would never get a job otherwise. So I went, reluctantly, to a small private school b/c they bragged about a great environmental science dept.which my parents thought I would be interested in-I was hoping to finally explore, get my hands dirty and find my place. Well, I found bits and pieces of my passion, but I was not passionate about my major. I wanted to transfer but I wasn’t allowed. I finished with a great GPA and felt that I should go to graduate school b/c that’s what all of my other classmates were doing-law school, med school, etc. I struggled immensely though b/c I wasn’t pursuing a passion, I was doing what was expected of me. I finally got up the courage to quit graduate school, and started to explore my passion-nature, outdoor activities, and sustainable living. To this day though, I still suffer from performance anxiety on the job and I am very self-conscious about “doing things correctly” in others eyes.

    Unfortunately now though, b/c every job I want requires a masters degree, I can’t move up to a full-time position in my field. And when I think about going to graduate school again, but this time for something I am passionate about, I’m only haunted by the fear of making the same mistake again, letting my anxiety get the best of me and going further into debt with loans.

    I think it’s hard not to place a bit of blame on others b/c as a child I didn’t know how to learn, what to learn, why I needed to learn it etc. I think it’s the responsibility of the teachers to encourage growth-not grades. And it’s the obligation of the parents to do what’s best for their children and have an invested interest even if their kids aren’t the smartest, brightest, fastest stars of the class.

    Unfortunately, I know my parents are and were great teachers, but others out there do not take the time to nurture, encourage, or connect with their students. There is too much pressure on test scores, competition with other countries, and keeping up with the neighbors. We need to all take our part and fair share in raising the children of tomorrow. If I ever have children, I am going to approach things in a different way most certainly.

  36. bmw said:

    We LOVE the urban public school our kids go to in Cambridge MA! Social justice curriculum, such a range of kids and families socioeconomically, interesting teachers who look further than the surface at the children they teach. It has not been without difficulties (one child is ahead academically can get v sad if not challenged), but I am so grateful for the richness in our lives because of this experience (for all of us). I hope my children grow up with open minds and open hearts and keep the curiosity and excitement they have now in grade school. Please check out some of the interesting urban public schools when you do your research.

    What a great idea for a project–can’t wait to see what you do.

  37. Jeff Hazeltine said:

    Loved Fresh. Just make the food more natural, as it was a century ago, and we will be more healthy. The natural approach to public education is unworkable but for small projects involving parents with resources. However, I am all for turning back the clock on education. 50 years ago, the expectations for the average school kid were lower, and we were happily more successful. Today, with the standards movement, the average kid is expected to achieve what only the top 10 percent achieved mid-twentieth century. The result is that most kids accept academic failure as the norm. If your new movie is a call for more/better teacher training as a way for ALL kids to reach “their potential”, please make it clear that most kid’s potential is not college degrees and college level classes and credit while sophomores in high school. Also, when you show video of students at “play” and engaged in their learning, show the class of 42 9th graders with one teacher — That class being one of 5 which the teacher is teaching that day. I’ve been teaching grades 7-12 in Los Angeles for the last 18 years. My children have attended a public school in one of L.A.’s affluent suburbs. The curriculum is the same. The results are not.

  38. Daniel Rose said:

    My school experience:

    I remember going to nursery school (private, this was probably 1952?+- in a model A coupe with a jump seat in the trunk. We would get to ride there sometimes. Anyway, no way is that possible now. I do not have a very good memory, but playing was always what I liked. I remember nap time on mats and playing out in the sun. I got stung by a bumbo bee once. I was and am still quite shy, reserved or whatever you may call this.

    Then I went to public school, 3 year in one really old school, and 3 in a middle like school. The teachers were fine. The 5th grade teacher mostly told stories of Alaska, and did not teach very much. Anyway, I did not get good grades in public school for what ever reason. I almost flunked 2nd grade. My mother had a degree in teaching, but only taught a few years before getting married. I wanted my mother to teach me piano, but she would not. I think in hindsight that she was worried I might be gay, and did not want to encourage arty gay stuff. My father was a 32nd degree Mason, so he was doing OK financially. He knew the teachers. In 4th grade we took an intelligence test. The teacher sat people in order of grade average, with the best in the front. She told my father I should be seated at the front of the class based on my intelligence, not in the back where I was.
    So, starting in 6th grade, I went to a private school several towns over. My father would drive me there and pick me up. Here there were like 9 or 10 in a class, not 30+. I also worked harder, as I knew my family was paying for the schooling. So, I got mostly A marks, top of the class stuff. But I read poorly and slowly, and I still do. I was in remedial reading and at the top of the class. Kind of strange. I liked math and science the best. Complicated novel I cannot read.

    For 11th and 12th grade I went to Suffield Academy (started in 1833 is their signature – kind of Masonic don’t you think?), which was a lot closer to home. This is an elite school, kids from all over the world, like a Persian Prince went there. I played soccer with Henry Ford’s great grand son (or great great maybe?). Anyway, I did pretty good. I liked science and math, so I went on to get a degree in Chemical Engineering. After the Air Force (I had a low draft number) I worked in that field for over 25 years. Not bad for a kid with a poor memory.

    I can not remember a teacher saying or doing anything discouraging or mean to me. I probably got low grades because of various factors, I am a bit slow in learning, my memory is not the best, and in hindsight I have a lot of markers for autism. They did not know much about autism back then, and mine was probably pretty mild. I remember sleeping a lot as a young child. I would be playing on the floor typically, and fall asleep there. My parents said I was an easy child to raise, never fussy much.

    I am not psychic or intuitive at all. Never saw a ghost or had any significant spiritual experiences. No pretend playmates or angels or anything as a child. I point that out, as many psychics do have gifts as a child and they seem to think everyone does. They tend to grow out of it, then something happens that reawakens their gifts. Then they make the great leap of faith, and say everyone is just like them. Nope. Nope Nope! I am a descendent of General Grant. I bet he was not psychic either.

    I knew in 5th grade that I would not be a great leader of men. Toward the end of the year, I would ride my bike to school, so I would pass the line waiting for the bus. And the kids would say good bye to me by name. It dawned on me that I did not know most of their names! I told you I have a poor memory. I can work with someone for 20 years, and forget their name! That is probably why I have no friends. LOL I worked with PhD Scientists from all over the world, but I cannot remember names. Strange. I lived by the phone list.

    Did I mention in first grade, I was writing with my left hand, and the teacher switched me to my right? I don’t know if that is significant or not. My dominant eye is left and my dominant kicking leg is left, but I throw with my right. Strange.

    I am not sure how a democratic school would work. I know my favorite class was outside recess. We had 2 everyday as I recall. That was great. Now they have only one. Anyway, how does one learn to read in an unstructured world? I would be lost in an unstructured world as a kid I think. I think that kids should be taught the tools of learning at least, like reading and some math. A democratic school would be more expensive, as there would need to be more hands on stuff. Typical schools have a hard time affording paper and crayons as I recall.

    I have 4 kids and 8 grand kids. Spirit talks to me thru birthdays. That story is too long to tell here. The latest grandkid was born on 11/13/11 – Kindness day! Anyway, that is a sampler. My kids went to private school through maybe 5th or 6th grade, then went to public, just the opposite of me. They all did well, went to college, have good jobs or are successful. My youngest daughter is home schooling her 3 girls. The two older ones like to take ballet classes. Part of the reason to home school is to avoid vaccines. The whole society is so corrupt. Can you believe they force young babies to have so many vaccines? People wonder why autism is epidemic. It is clearly a money issue with Big Pharma. More and sooner vaccines equates to more profits. Call them on it and they will slander and ruin your career. Not nice. It is not just the schools that have to change. We all have to wake up. The schools are just one symptom of a corrupt and sick society. Pooled wealth and power is at the heart of the problems. As one of my high school teachers would keep repeating: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. We need to look at ourselves. We are the ones that are obeying these monsters. That is why the schools are the way they are. TPTB want them that way. They want obedient slave workers. They want to criminalize those who are not fitting in nicely.

  39. Lee-Anne said:

    I hated school, especially phys ed. I was the smallest in my class, and always picked last to be on teams. I sucked at sports and quit going to PE as soon as it became optional. It was painful for me to go.

    I was quick to learn and quick to get bored with the repitition and the slow pace, designed so the slowest kid in the class could keep up. During math I would doodle on my desk to amuse myself. My favorite part of school was in about grade 5 when we did SRA’s, which were self-paced modules. We read them, did a test at the end, and moved on to the next one at our own pace. I also really enjoyed when we hatched baby chicks. In grade 6 my principal told my mom I was a genius. I don’t know if I believe that. I never did graduate. I never did my homework at home. I didn’t think it was right to have to spend all those hours in school studying, and then be expected to do more at home. Any homework I did was at the beginning of class when the teacher was talking about what we were going to study next. I really enjoyed art and am quite talented that way, but in grade 10 my favorite art teacher told me I didn’t have enough imagination. By grade 11 I was having a hard time making myself go to school. 1/2 way through grade 12 I dropped out. Since then I have gone to college twice, years apart, earning 2 different 1 year certificates. By the end I was always glad to get finished and go back to work. I would miss classes in college and never be behind the rest of the class. Students would ask me to interpret what the teacher was teaching, because it was hard to understand.

    I have 2 kids who love art and are quite talented, but my third and oldest doesn’t want anything to do with art since in grade 4 his teacher told him he was ‘coloring wrong’.

  40. Lori said:

    I had no fears of my oldest son going to school. He excelled in preschool, the teachers loved him, kids loved him, he loved going, and thrived on knowledge. Kindergarten was amazing! He had a wonderful teacher, who on the first day told the parents that he always learns more from the kids than he could ever teach them. It sounded corny at the time, but by the next year, I realized what he meant.

    First grade was the most tramtic draining experience for my son and myself. A teacher, who says she cannot waster her time with my son when she has 16 other kids to teach. A teacher who said my son is smart because he knows all the answers, but that doesnt mean he is bright or gifted. A teacher, who punished my son for using the bathroom outside of bathroom break. A teacher, who had no interest in providing any encouragementto children. My son was dying inside. The spark from his eyes were gone. The child who loved learning any way he could(including sitting and watching a 2 hr WWII documentary at age 5 when he wouldnt even sit for a 30 min cartoon show)now pleaded to not go back to school. He was a daily battle. He continued with high marks in school, but told me it was a waste of time. At 6 yrs old, he asked to please stay home because he learned more here than he ever did in the classroom. On top of everything else, the bullying started. Kids making fun of him because the teacher would put him in the hall for “challange” work. Call him names…many days him not playing with anyone because he didn’t fit in. He became angry, distant, and in turn taking it out on his siblings. Per his request, he is now home and after nearly a school year, he has his confidence back. We still have other issues we are working on, but it is getting better. It is so important that parents know the morter and brick school is not for every child. It is also so important that we hold these poor teachers accoutable. There are too many good teachers without jobs to have bad tenure teachers breaking the spirit of our kids.

  41. Paul said:

    the aftermath of WW2 delayed my first grade to age 7, which gave me a maturation advantage which made the 3 grades in europe and the 4-8 in America relatively easy. High school left plenty of time for hobbies and a fascination for science. College was a letdown; instead of the unification of sciences with other disciplines I perceived a provincialism among the fields, each claiming to be the most important of human endeavors. Choosing physics as closest to my earlier hobbies,I was dismayed at the deluge of answers for which I had yet no questions, all saturated with advanced math. For me, this buried each meager growth in intuitive sense of understanding under tons of, for me, brain hurting effort. Fortunately my hobbies had developed insights and skills skills that were useful for supporting physics experiments and I’ve made a most rewarding and well paid career at that.
    My daughters have had very different experiences at school.
    The first embraced school with an enthusiasm that ignored or accommodated, the rigidity of teachers, arbitrary rules and pettiness of peers in some grades. She made the best of a compromised scene and moved on through college to a professorship in molecular biology.
    The second pursued an interest in living things as soon as she was able to get about to explore the yard and to examine, most attentively, everything that grew there, plants, bugs and their interactions. She engaged the curiosity of other children she played with in these things, sometimes to their parents’ concern. In school, she was subject to ridicule by other kids for studying bugs in recess, and criticism for asking “inappropriate” questions in class, such as Why do plants grow from the ground up? My wife and I were constantly reminding her that her questions and interests were ok. But the pressure from her peers was a constant stress through out grade and high school.Yet her youthful curiosity and creativity made her the choice babysitter for kids whom nobody else but she could keep occupied. She had a good time in college among others who were there, by choice, to learn. Her degree was in biological sciences and planned to teach middle school, where kids were still open to learning for fun, but hasn’t been able to find a suitable school and is employed in well paid but not rewarding technical field.

  42. Barbara said:

    I grew up in the 50′s in Minneapolis. I hated school. I was an oddball because my parents were divorced. Draw a picture of your family was an art project. My family was Mom, Grandma and me. The teacher was not kind about my situation and other students were allowed to tease me. Another art project was drawing trees. The teacher corrected me about how I drew my tree with little branches and apples. It wasn’t the standard she expected. In high school I took typing and bookkeeping classes. I couldn’t wait until I was 16 to drop out and get a job. I did graduate. I still have the feeling of hating school, tests, the competition. I took an accounting class at a city college. I had lifelong career in various businesses and later federal govt jobs in accounting positions and processing bills for payment.
    My oldest son was in special education classes. In 1st grade he was diagnosed as hyperactive and given Ritalin. He went from active to totally inactive. I stopped the Ritalin and had to fight with the school to allow him to attend. This was in the 1970′s. I changed his diet removing food additives according to Dr Feingolds book about hyperactivity. One of his special ed teachers who was highly revered by the school district would pull his hair in her frustration with trying to teach him. Fortunately we moved soon shortly after I found out about her teaching methods. His special education experience was very negative all through school. He was teased and treated poorly by fellow students. He graduated. He later got a commercial drivers license and drove a delivery truck.

  43. Bev said:

    I loved school and received good grades throughout, however, I became very BORED by the time I got to high school. I decided to finish last two years at a vocational school and was so glad I did! It reignited my interest because I was doing something I was interested in and it was more challenging. Also, it gave me a head start on a college education.

  44. Barb said:

    I recieved this email and was asked for my education story. I clicked to share by email and although every other part of this email I clicked opened email options would not.I would rather not be bothered if you sre not really interested. Good luck with your project.

  45. Jody Grossman said:

    Dear Ana,

    I loved your film FRESH and I’m sure you will bring the same richness to the subject of education. I am a Waldorf kindergarten teacher and, though no system of education is perfect, I feel that the Waldorf approach to educating children is one of the best models we have. Waldorf kindergarten is based on the premise that play is the child’s “work”, and it is the way in which children make sense of the world in a highly creative way, filled with the possibilities that children bring with them into the world. The founder of Waldorf education, Rudolf Steiner, wrote that all education is self-education, and that teachers provide an environment in which children can discover what lies within themselves. Instead of “stuffing knowledge” into them, we try to encourage children to bring forth what they have to contribute to the world. I look forward to seeing your next film.

  46. Lorie W. said:

    I had some wonderful educational opportunities through these innovative teachers:

    1966
    Mrs. Lucille Peller, accelerated class, District 89, Bellwood IL

    1974
    Kaleidoscope: An Educator’s Dream Working, Leerstang, Mary L.Article described an innovative program, which stirred student motivation and learning experience. River Grove, IL

    1989
    Dr. Lee Fergusson http://www.mum.edu/pdf_msvs/v07/art.pdf
    The Holistic Education of Artists through Maharishi VedicScience: Unfolding the Infinite Reservoir of Creativity in Individual Awareness. Fairfield, IA

    I wonder if any parts of these programs are still being used today.

  47. Margaret said:

    You’ve certainly taken on a controversial project. I commend you on your endeavor and my hats’ off to you.
    I can certainly share my recollection of the good ole ‘school days’. I attended a separate school and had a horrific experience. I struggled in every area every day under the direction of a strap, a yard stick and other belittling punishments.  My memories of learning in the school system, tainted me from way back. I was a very curious, joyful, talented and inquisitive child and spoke up when something did not make sense to me. A Spirited child with my own opinion and viewpoints that was not tolerated in the separate schools. I wanted so much to do well however could not find my own way to grasp how the curriculum was structured. I became increasingly anxious, frustrated and embarrassed because I just could seem to figure things out the was others did and the teachers would not hesitate to ridicule and make an example of those that did struggle. It was degrading and it eventually crushed my spirit along with my self-confidence. I pushed through, repeating grades the best I could, regardless and never did receive a diploma from high school with the low grades I had.
    Into my adulthood, I carried those memories and toxic beliefs with me that I was ‘A Failure, No good, and stupid’. I decided to do what I could to break the old belief pattern and enrolled in a number of college courses. Basic upgrading, some in finance & Marketing, and full time in computer applications + more. I soared through these courses at a very quick pace and achieved honours diplomas. 
    I now have an 11 year old brilliant son who has displayed advanced intelligence levels and superior communication skills since toddler years. He has been tested for cognitive skills and IQ level. He has scored well above his age group and older and has been scaled as superior to gifted. My son also struggles with certain aspects of the curriculum and the school system such as transposed letters and spelling, reading & writing. In grade 5, the ‘separate school is very quick & eager to force him into that ‘box’ and stunt this creative mind instead of working with the wonderful gifts he has. They resort to text book labels and categorize these brilliant minds as learning disabled, dyslexic, Attention Deficit, etc. I do believe there are some cases where children may have imbalances that need to be taken into consideration and recognized. I also believe, in some cases, these can be helped, if not corrected, with nutritional changes in diet and natural supplements. Sometimes, according to my experience, it could be mineral or vitamin deficiencies which is an option that could be explored through a naturopathic doctor. I’ve seen the results, first hand without the use of compounded traditional medicines that can carry many adverse short and long term side affects. 
    It is also my opinion that our education system teachers and staff are so uneducated in ‘humanity, spirituality and basic compassion, equality and kindness’ that they have been conditioned to be robotic and are taught to ‘still’ place these conditions on our children. If a child stands out, they are chastised and punished or segregated for their differences because the teachers simply have no idea how to nurture and guide these children. Every child has their own unique spirit. They deserve the opportunity to grow as their unique selves, not as the system requires. The educators now claim to be more advanced in recognizing that not all children learn the same way and they have many programs to assist and work with children that may require an alternative approach to learning the curriculum yet, once they begin to prod into a child’s education history & monitor those that do not fit inside the box, they choose labels for them and make medical recommendations to parents, segregate them.

    It is my opinion that there are a select few educators that ‘get it’ however they too struggle with the guidelines set out by the education officials. I know of one teacher in particular that resigned from teaching as a result of the way the system has been enforced. He could not be a part of the school system knowing the real truth. He had the opportunity to witness things on the other side and made an informed decision that ‘something’s wrong with this picture’. Where he tried to make a difference, all fell on deaf ears. Now he works with children outside the school system, teaching health & fitness.
    I believe it’s going to take a ‘standing up’ approach from the teachers and educators in order to promote change.

    If parents have the opportunity to home school, I say DO IT! 
    This is MY experience and opinion.
    I very much enjoyed your previous work & look forward to seeing this New & exciting project!

  48. John Neville said:

    School was both Yin and Yang, as it was for many people. I began school too early for my development physically, but I could read before 1st grade so I progressed. As a systems thinker, I did not do well in the Newtonian model of teaching where we were given discreet disciplines without the real world context. We all noticed the difference when Sputnik went up and money suddenly poured into the school system. However, the methods did not change. I was profiled in junior high and placed in classes below where I thought I should be. So, I worked to get reclassified and by my junior year in high school, I was up in the class level where I belonged. I can count the good teachers I had on one hand. When I graduated, I was not prepared for college. But I went in part because it was expected and in part because it was better than Viet Nam, the choices at the time. Today, I would do things very differently – work first, then school. Colgate University was very challenging for a guy who didn’t know how to study. I did go on through graduate school, but even in my initial chosen profession, I relied more on what I learned in the real world than I did on anything I learned in the classroom.
    At this point, partly because of my experiences, I’m working on helping to create education for sustainability as a framework. It begins with context, the world we live in. Children learn systems thinking from the natural world around them. Then they acquire the necessary disciplines to cope and thrive in that changing world.

  49. Patricia McGuire said:

    My sons went to a school based on the principals set forth by A. S. Neill in his book “Summerhill, A Radical Approach To Childrearing. His (proven) theory was, if a child wants to learn something, he will, but he must be allowed to be a child. At their school they didn’t attend classes if they didn’t want to, and they played a lot. In their play, they learned about how banks work, how to buy and sell stocks, how to set up a business and work it, etc. These are important life lessons that all the children were interested in because they were fun, and I wish I had learned in school. Today my elder son is a Dean of a prestigious University in Denver, and my younger is director of IT
    infrastructure for a major entertainment corporation. The theory proved itself to be correct once again. Thank you A. S. Neill!

  50. Mary Ann said:

    I did well in the early to mid years of school. I remember while in 2nd grade feeling bored with always knowing the answers on tests and receiving no reward so one day I intentially answered everything wrong. I got the teachers and my mother’s attention and scolded for it. I needed more challenge, more information, more stimulation. By the time junior and senior high came along they lost me. I still continued to make decent grades without effort but there was no passion.
    When I had my children I innudated them with information until they said “Uncle”. I’m in my 50′s and still crave more. If I didn’t have to work for a living I’d be a professional student!

  51. Theo Giesy said:

    I was very excited by your project. The timing was fortunate for me because I had just written a seven page piece for a commemorative book about John Holt. I am the mother of five ranging from 24 to 47. We were pioneer homeschoolers because of the kids experiences in school. My three oldest hated it for different reasons including boredom, fear of making mistakes, empathy for classmates who were treated badly. One child was so upset that in the first grade, she sat down on the road on the way to school and refused to go on. She walked home and told me she was sent home. That led to discussions about the law and ultimately to homeschooling. All this was supported first by reading John Holt’s books and then by him personally. His support meant so much to me. I had tried working within the school system and got nowhere. When they say they want involved parents, they mean they want parents who back up everything the school says and not parents who criticize. My youngest was homeschooled from start to finish. I would be glad to help in any way you could use. I strongly recommend John Holt’s books both for your project and for you as a mother. They are very readable. “How Children Learn” talks about children the way you describe yours. “Instead of Education” would be good background for your project. I would be glad to send you a copy of what I wrote if it would be a help. John’s books are available as PDF files.

  52. Julie Sanders said:

    I love the idea of your project. Thank you for asking for input!

    My relationship with education has been an interesting one. I always did well in school. I think my mom being a teacher fostered a love of learning in me from early on. However, in junior high, I was bullied because of some older girls that didn’t like my mom as their substitute teacher. When my mom got a permanent teaching position at the high school I was supposed to attend, I wanted out!

    So, scraping together the funds, my parents paid to put my sister and me through a private Christian high school. That was a wonderful experience — although that school had it’s share of troubled kids as well. I made solid friendships that I have to this day, even though I’ve moved out of state. I graduated valedictorian and attended Pepperdine University on scholarship. I really loved all of it. The best part was studying in London my sophomore year — full immersion in another culture and total independence from mom and dad! I learned a ton!

    Fast forward 7 or 8 years, and I’m preparing to send my first son to kindergarten. I had a few friends who home schooled and I thought they were crazy! Well, the summer before Benjamin would go to school, I had something of an “epiphany” — I had the distinct sense that God wanted me to home school my boys. I wanted them to play AND learn — with me. I have learned so much by home schooling, I now realize how lacking my own education was.

    I now have 3 boys that I home school and I can’t imagine asking any of my creative, energetic, bright boys to sit for hours in a classroom with 30 bored and distracted children trying to learn anything. Benjamin is now finishing his sophomore year in high school, excelling in every subject. I love that I’m there for all the discoveries the boys make about the world — in history, Latin, science, algebra, literature.

    I know for my boys and myself, and even my husband who is not so involved in the day to day of school, we’ve discovered the joy of learning and know that it’s a life-long endeavor. What a wonderful world we live in! A love of learning unlocks so many opportunities. It’s so sad that the traditional model for school robs kids of that love.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how your project progresses. Please keep us informed!

  53. Lisa ~ AutismWonderland said:

    I have a 6 year old son with autism. He is currently in the public school system (kindergarten). The Public School system talks about providing an appropriate education but they are failing children every single day. Would love to connect with you!

  54. Gladys said:

    My experience in school was not so great. Our family had 7 children and the time that Mom and Dad had (or took) with each child was minimal. We were sent to school to learn what we had to learn. The town that I grew up in was small and very judgmental. So as a rather shy petite girl with 6 brothers, I was judged by my classmates (and probably my teachers as well) to be about average, never the top learner in the class. That is where the society of this small town put me, so that is where I put myself. When I left that small town (shortly after my graduation from High School), I discovered the real world. I discovered that if someone just meets you, they will give you an opportunity to be yourself without judgment. I learned that you could do whatever you put your mind to.
    My daughter was born and my marriage did not work out. As a single parent I had it all to do. My daughter went to public school. Many times I know that I was lacking in the ability to provide to her over and above the basic needs of life, but she blossomed because she knew that I was doing the best that I could and that I loved her unconditionally. I always told her that if she was doing the best that she could, that was all anyone could ask.
    The combination of living a basic life with very few frills and telling her to always do her best sent her on a course of excellence. She had her Major decided when she was a junior in High School. She wanted to become a Speech Therapist. She obtained her Bachelor Degree and her Master’s Degree and is currently working on her Doctorate Degree.
    Sometimes I feel that parents today do too much. They try to control too much of their child’s life. I know every parent wants the best for their child, but when does it become interference? I was stifled by the judgment of a small town. Are parents stifling their children with their judgment and their control? We want our schools to be well rounded and we want our schools to have programs that let our children express and develop their own talents.
    Situations and life experiences shape each one of us to walk the path we must walk on this earth. It shaped me and it shaped my daughter to believe that we could do whatever we set our minds to no matter what obstacles stand before us.

  55. Marianne Woods said:

    When I was in school we were all taught the same way and if you didn’t keep up, you got no special help. Like with math, if you didn’t know it, oh well.This was elementary school and middle school. It wasn’t until high school that I got tutoring in math and by then, I really didn’t care as my confidence was already shaken and so was my attitude. Who cares? I managed to graduate so I wasn’t all that bad. Or was I? Ten years later, I applied to a community college. I took the addmissions tests and failed the math. Since I knew I wasn’t that bad at it, I went to the library and got some books and studied up on my basic math skills and retook that part of the test. I passed but I needed some elementary algebra in order to take any real general education math courses. So I did. I struggled and I got tutoring twice a week and I passed with a C. From them on I did not take any other math classes but what was considered a math class…like statistics or logics. I am now 18 years later graduating with my Associates Degree. I am beginning a new career in Biology at the age of 46 and transfering to a new college where I will need more math courses. So, math haunts me to this day.
    As for reading, we took reading tests and the English teacher told me my reading was at an 8th grade level for someone in their junior year of high school but offered NO assistance as to how to better myself or why that was. I have since excelled in reading and English but the math still haunts me.
    I am determined to excel in math to a degree because I want my degree and career bad enough to do the work. When I was younger, I didn’t have the confidence or skills to want anything so I listened everyone else as they basically told me I was unintelligent. I feel like when my kids went to school, the math was still a problem. here’s what’s wrong, you figure it out or fail. Great!! Thanks! They tried to teach us parents the “new math”. Laugh out loud! What makes them think that I know math any more now than when they taught me 10 years earlier? I was stunned and confused and when I helped my kids, I used the “old math” and the kids were like, “that’s wrong!” I said, how can it be wrong if we both got the same answer? This is how they want us to do it. Well, if you get the correct answer, I say do it that way. How can they judge you on the work to get the answer if you struggle as it is to even understand the math problem? So I think they made it more confusing for me and a tiny bit easier for them. I just wished there were different classes for those who were slower and maybe more emphasis on assisting us because I know I am not the only one. Also, we now have the metric system….where was I? So I have a lot of work to undo and this is a great idea. Everyone learns at different degrees and it should be respected not expected. Thanks.

  56. dawn said:

    I had dyslexia. Until I was given untimed exams, which happened only when I was doing post college courses did I start to succeed academically. Now I am developmental and behavioral pediatrician who helps others with similar problems.

  57. aranma2 said:

    I haven’t seen Fresh yet, but I, so far, like what you’ve had to say here. We’ll get to my story another time. I have two daughters and am, far and away, the luckiest dad on the planet. I’m in their lives but they live with their mother. One is about to graduate and the other is ending middle school this year. Here’s the thing the older one has the normal jitters about what’s going to happen next, but my younger one, holy cow, She loves school her teachers cry when she moves on and as for the artistic side well the younger one sews her own cloths…not from patterns but designs and just makes them and they are nice. She was written about in her local paper a year ago and she just sews away. I say I’m lucky because they get along so well and no matter what’s gone on in my life they both love me and still light up when they see their dad. I’m crying now, (thank you very much). Their mother remarried shortly after we divorced no it had nothing to do with anything other than me taking the situation we were in for granted. Trust me on that it was my fault. She did however marry money and thus the girls haven’t really wanted for anything but they are not affected by it. Also my youngest doesn’t see color. She sees people for who they are not by nationality or bias or prejudices Their both like that they might have gotten that from me. My oldest strength is she wants to go into mission work. For the last five years she’s gone to Mexico and built houses for two weeks every summer. I couldn’t be prouder of both of them. Well that’s my story. Hope it helps.

  58. Jill said:

    What an interesting project. Good luck with it.

    I loved school and still do. That’s probably why I became a teacher.

    When I was a student, particularly in high school, kids were placed in tracks–college-bound, business, vocational, etc. These tracks were not rigid; everybody could move from one to another if s/he chose to. The result of tracking was that I never got bored. Classes were stimulating and I developed a love of learning.

    As a teacher, I’ve seen mistakes that are rife in the educational system. The first is that students are presented with lessons before they can comprehend them. For example, a class of first graders studies genealogy. Six-year-olds have not developed a sense of time past, so the project is meaningless, and it leaves them feeling that they are too stupid to be in the first grade.
    Another example: A friend took her excited young grandson to the Dinosaur Museum. He was devastated when he saw that the dinosaurs were life-sized models instead of live animals. His brain had not developed enough to understand time, extinction, or death. In fact, most small children believe that dinosaurs are real-life monsters that they’ll run into someday. Nonetheless, primary teachers all over the country are expected to teach units on dinosaurs.

    A brief list of second grade spelling words:
    Belfry
    Overwhelm
    Travois
    Civil
    Cantankerous
    Vitally important words, are they not?

    First-graders learn algebra. Sixth graders study solid geometry. Yet, high school students count on their fingers.

    Etc.

    The other important factor that nobody talks about is early-onset puberty. Researchers say that when the young brain enters puberty, it’s flooded with hormones that wipe out all but the most deeply embedded knowledge. Pubescent eight-year-olds haven’t had enough time to embed much of anything. They’re lucky if they can read and do basic math. If so, they have a chance of succeeding, while other less-prepared students will be lost from that point on.

    I have taught innumerable high school students who struggle to read at the elementary level. Unfortunately, teachers are not permitted to correct these deficits. They have curricula they are required to cover whether or not anybody in their classes can learn it.

    Standardized, high stakes testing exacerbates the problem.

    Children are learning machines–that’s their job. All kids learn, but the question is what.



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