Passion and the desire to learn: the missing elements of public education

Public school. Sigh. What am I going to do with those kids of mine?

We had curriculum night last night. With two kids in the same school, we had to split our time between two rooms. I insisted on going to the grade 3 classroom first because I remember a very well organized presentation from a previous year by another teacher and thought this is the norm. I never had a grade 3 kid before so I figured I go visit his teacher first and check out the grade 1 teacher for Sonja in the second session (being already familiar with the grade 1 curriculum).

We get there right on time and…no presentation. The entire thing was very informal and somewhat, but not really, informative. It was more a case of the teacher talking to the parents individually, or in small groups, about how he runs his class and some personal commentary that yes, that boy of yours is blah blah blah all the good stuff we already knew about.

I left no wiser about the curriculum or how to best support that boy of mine academically in order to prepare him for grade 4 middle french immersion next year. Don’t get me wrong, I learned all kinds of things about how the classroom is run, how the teacher interacts with and teaches the kids, and I even obtained a better idea what the general atmosphere must be like in the classroom my boy spends several hours each day in…but I don’t really know anything new.

It’s hard to explain. The teacher is very nice, a nice man and the kids clearly like him. When he is on yard duty he’s got several kids hanging off him. While we were talking with him last night, some older kids showed up to say hello to him, and it was clear that they were graduates of his class from two, three years ago. Clearly, he is making an impact on the kids while he teaches them.

But I just don’t know if his method, under the constraints and limitations of the public school boards who run elementary education, will actually make an impact on my son academically speaking.

My boy is under-stimulated in the public system but is willing to continue in it for the time being. He has said this since Junior Kindergarten, but not in a complaining kind of way. He doesn’t say much of anything, but if I ask him neutrally what he did in school today, he answers with the typical ‘nothing’ like so many kids do. We do engage with him or ask more direct questions, and I do stay informed about what goes on in school itself, so if he’s in the mood to talk, I do get quite a clear picture of what he did or what they’re doing or planning.

But there’s no fire driving him. No passion. He’s not really looking forward to school. Sure, he sees his friends there, and some days they do something interesting and different, and he does like recess šŸ™‚ and lunch šŸ™‚ and of course gym ! which is his favorite, and his friends…

This lack of burning desire to pursue a passion (other than hockey, natch) is missing from the kids in the public school system. When I think back to our Ottawa vacation, where we visited a different museum each day, I can compare my children’s disposition then, to now. And the difference is profound. The kids stayed for hours and barely wanted to leave the museum to have a picnic lunch…I would not exaggerate if admit that they probably learned more in those museums during that week away than they did during the entire school year. All the visual, touch-and-feel-and-taste experiences made such lasting impressions on them that they often still search for, or are reminded of, things they saw when we visit the local library.

Sometimes I think I should homeschool my boy. Sometimes I think I should put him in a private Montessori-type elementary school. Sometimes I think I think too much…he will weather the public school system and do very well in it and not be unhappy and live in the real world just like his dad and I did.

We can, and will continue, to give the kids the ‘expanded’ education at home and hope for the best. But so far, the more I learn from the public school system, the more I hear and the more I delve into its methods, the more I see just how broken education is.

Sad, but true.Ā  At least for us.

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3 thoughts on “Passion and the desire to learn: the missing elements of public education

  1. I totally get this, and feel the same way. My kids are also missing the passion – the actual interest in learning something new. When it comes to school projects or units, they are all about doing the minimum amount of work to say they are done…they don’t actually get excited about learning new things. I remember being really (geekily, I’m sure) turned on by school, and doing extra reading on some beloved topics, getting really into my projects and such. I find myself wondering now if it was just who I was, and they are different…or perhaps my parents had some secret way of inspiring me…or maybe the school system was different back then.

    I used to think they’d sort it out eventually, but my oldest just started grade 5 and GAH, he’s still not “into” anything except LEGO. Several of our other friends have kids who are at least passionate about one particular sport or excelling at one particular activity, so maybe it’s just a personality thing. I’m on a bit of a mission, though, to change things up this year – to get some fire, some interest, and maybe some better marks, too.

  2. I hope they figure it out. I didn’t really expect school to be smooth sailing, exactly, but when I look back at my own school days (and even looking at the way we were parented), it’s kind of weird just how much time we, us today, spend fretting on this stuff. The kids have everything and more today in terms of support, awareness, help, love, opportunity, and still, we fret.

    I fret.

    Glad to know there are others out there that see things at least somewhat from my perspective. Thanks for the comment, Lynn!

  3. Lego is a very creative “waste of time”. I know chilren that couldnt do Lego. It takes spacial skills that some people just dont have. And creating anything takes imagination.

    My son figured out long ago that the “correct answer” is what the teacher wants… which might not be, in fact, correct; people believe what they want and dont want to listen to the facts. Sometimes teachers can be nasty and if they hit you, slap them back. That last one is a hard one as my son is peacable even though he will fight to protect others (as was the case when he was in grade 1 to 3 and would protect the little (k) students from bullies at recess (what we learn after the fact!!!)

    It is the teachers that give students permission to express themselves without a whole list of limitations that win the respect of students. Curriculums cause so much restriction that there is very little room or time for passion, excitement and the thrill if discovery. My son spends endless hours watching youtube videos on what history and art. Sometimes his passions are touched on in school but at a very elementary level.

    If your child takes an interest in anything, encourage it. Lego may lead to engineering or 3D animation with great passion.

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