Sunday, May 25, 2014

30 weeks in review (the teaching gig)

Next week marks the end of 30 weeks of teaching at the cottage school.

It was just what I needed.

It was just enough to engage me and relight the spark of loving to teach.
It was just enough money to make me feel like my skills are valuable and needed.
It was just enough time away from stay-at-home motherhood to reinvigorate me.

I feel like I helped my students better understand literature, but working with them was also a huge learning experience for me that had nothing to do with literature.

I had preconceptions of what homeschooled children are like, and this experience helped turn those preconceptions on their heads.

Going into it, I anticipated socially backwards kids with big heads, full of themselves and what they knew.
Wasn't true.
Going into it, I anticipated kids who were far more intelligent than me, who were all years ahead of their public school peers.
Wasn't true.
Going into it, I anticipated closed-minded religious zealots.
Wasn't true.

What I found is that one or two of the kids was a little too certain of their intelligence, which broader life experience and wisdom will surely knock out of them.  The honest truth is that the kids who were too sure of and vocal about their intelligence are really, really, really bright.  What they lack is the esteem or maturity to understand that they don't have to boast about it; it shines through everything they say and write.

What I found is that every child I taught is at a different level, with differing skills and talents, and none of them is smarter than their 40-year-old teacher (only because I've learned that life experience is a far greater educator than I've ever given it credit for being).  Some of my middle school students' reading and writing skills were below my own 4th grader's skills, which didn't make me think poorly of homeschooling but did make me feel better about public schooling.  It did make me recognize that one of the downsides of homeschooling is that a parent doesn't have access to the specialized resources that are freely available in formal school settings for kids who have learning challenges, like dyslexia, dysgraphia and other communicative challenges.  

What I found was that there are all sorts of reasons people choose to homeschool.  Although religion is part of it, so is the desire to protect children with food allergies and help kids who don't learn well in the more confining strictures of formalized school.  I never had anyone lambast me with overzealous religious high-handedness.

Just as working in a downtown school wasn't scary or dangerous as I thought it might be some 14 years ago, working in a cottage school setting changed my perspective on that schooling experience too.

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