Thursday, November 7, 2013

Everything I need to (un)know I learned in kindergarten (etc).

I often say I loved school but when I try to think back to what I actually enjoyed learning, it's nearly impossible. Most of what I remember from school is feelings.

Some wonderful feelings, of course, but also a lot of difficult ones. Feelings I rarely encounter anymore. But throughout my school years I can remember feeling intimidated, embarrassed, unworthy, insecure, anxious, ashamed and scared to be myself. I felt like I wasn't enough. Like I didn't fit in. Like I was never quite right.

Even thinking about it now, my stomach is in knots. And I liked school! I had close friends and acquaintances, got good grades, was involved in extra curricular activities, had more than enough family support and was for the most part a healthy and well adjusted child. It was a good experience - good schools, good teachers, good peers - and yet it still makes me feel a bit uneasy all these years later.

It makes me wonder: How much of what we learn in school needs to be unlearned later? I'm not talking facts and figures - that stuff largely gets forgotten anyway - I'm talking about the stuff that really matters. Stuff about who we are as a person.

If you had never been bad at math or the smartest in your class or the most popular or the chubby one or the last one to finish your science test or a late reader or the girl who didn't have a date to the prom or the kid who wet his pants in 2nd grade or the boy who always got picked last for kick ball or teacher's pet, would it change who you think you are today?

How much of our adult lives are spent trying to unlearn the things we spent so many years believing?

What if instead of spending our childhood trying to fit into some box, we just got to be kids? Playing with friends, learning about the world by being a part of it, discovering who we are by what we feel and think instead of what somebody else tells us.

What if parents and teachers sought to educate the person, not the student? Or better yet, what if the person doing the learning largely took the reins?

Imagine the foundation we would have to build our lives on! How much more productive and fulfilling adulthood might be if instead of trying to figure out who we are and where we stand, we could just take our strong sense of self and build on it.

Learning is easy. But the unlearning? That can take a lifetime.

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