A Teacher Who Dropped out of High School

Source:  The Innovative Educator, Dec 2012

My idea of the perfect school is one in which you can  learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it, where you want to learn it, and how you want to learn it.

I still got a great education because I asked questions, followed tangents and never stopped being curious.

You don’t need a curriculum, a road map or a plan at all.  Just ask a question and seek an answer.  Then ask another question.
Listen to the answers you get. Follow tangents. Focus like a laser or wander aimlessly. Tinker. Play.
All knowledge is connected and things will all start to make sense as you note commonalities, wonder about discrepancies, make connections and develop insights.
After a while you’ll become an expert, an authority. You’ll wander off one path and discover another one, perhaps the secret of life, the universe and everything.  Just keep asking one more question and you will find many more answers. Each of which will lead to more questions.  Joyce Valenza calls it “a never ending search.”
Here are some things you are likely to discover:
  • People are eager to talk about what they do and what they know, to someone who is interested in learning.
  • People are eager to tell you their stories, what they think, what they feel, to someone willing to listen.
  • Your bullshit meter will develop and become more accurate.
  • You will find the joy of learning again, the joy of teaching what you learn, and you’ll rediscover the excitement of wondering.
  • You will learn that all answers lead to more questions, better questions, deeper questions.
    • Keep asking.
    • Keep learning.
Do all the things school doesn’t leave you the time to do and you will get a better education than any institution can give you.  Don’t worry about getting into college. Getting into a good college requires standing out from the crowd, somehow distinguishing yourself from the hundreds of thousand other high school seniors.
So while all those other kids are all taking the same classes, cramming for exams and spending every extra minute doing every imaginable community service and extra credit assignment, you’ll be having different experiences.
While they’re being told what to learn, you’ll be deciding what to learn. Their learning will be limited by the curriculum, your learning will be free-range, going as far as your curiosity takes you.  Just think of the application essay you’ll be able to write.
And somewhere in the process of writing that essay, you might begin to wonder whether you really need to go to college.  Once you start becoming a free-range learner it is almost impossible to stop. And that is the best part of it all.

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