My earliest, and probably best memory of school is running naked through the spinklers with my kindergarten classmates. Obviously, I attended an extremely progressive school and this probably set up some unrealistic expectations when I found myself transferred to a public school sometime in the middle of the 70’s. It seems clothes were mandatory among other things.
Getting me “schooled” was a trying experience for all involved. To begin with I did not excel at sitting still let alone listening, and my reading comprehension was not much better. To tell you the truth I’m not much better at either of these today, though I can fake it better. I am one of those people by either nature or nuture who can really only learn something by doing it myself. I’m a kinetic learner who can not be stimulated by traditional visual or aural instruction which seems to work for everyone else. But not to worry, I didn’t suffer in silent misery- I let people know that I wanted to experiment and learn by doing. The phrase my family will still laughing chorus at me is: “I have my own way!” And as my mother will tell you I do not take instruction. I’m not saying, “take instruction well,” on purpose. This did lead to some real issues for me. I figure things out on my own, but like putting together IKEA furniture without the manual, I was often left with a handful of ‘extra’ pieces and a shaky foundation.
I sat through 2 years of French and picked up almost nothing. But when the opportunity surfaced for me to be an exchange student in high school, I jumped at it. I signed up for any French speaking country. I found myself in Belgium a few months later. I got off two flights and a bus to meet my host family barely able to say hello to them. Two months later they put me back on that bus and I could talk on just about any subject in Belgian accented French. While school French hadn’t worked for me, being thrown in to the deep end and having to figure out how to swim ‘my own way’ did work. I may speak idiomatic French with an accent and vocabulary halfway between a dockworker and an 80’s hair band, but it was fluent by God.
I managed to struggle my way through high school, and even did well in the college courses I took. But finally at 30 I rediscovered the joy of school. I had decided to change careers. To that point I had been working either as a nanny or teaching preschool (no one had to sit still or read anything against their will in my class). My new profession was to be Massage Therapist.
When you go to massage school the course work is at least 70% hands on training. Each day you show up and half the class gets naked and on the table to get a massage (under a sheet, of course). Just getting a massage every day is enough to make anyone enjoy, not only school, but pretty much anything. But for me it made the other 30% anatomy, physiology, etc… tolerable. Dare I say even enjoyable. I liked reading about and memorizing all the anatomy that I felt while working on my fellow students. The physiology I had felt under my hands had a life that allowed it to come through the page and into my long-term memory for the first time. Finally someone had created my perfect learning environment!
I tried to keep all of my educational trials in mind when looking for my daughter’s first learning experiences. Of course she is a whole other person with her own eccentricities. I can only hope she figures them out before she’s 30 and maybe not naked.
Elise is fully clothed and blogging at Elise’s Ramblings.