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If They Give You Lined Paper, Write The Other Way *

July 11, 2010

A box of new crayons!  Now they’re all pointy, lined up in order, bright and perfect.  Soon they’ll be a bunch of ground down, rounded, indistinguishable stumps, missing their wrappers and smudged with other colors.  Sometimes life seems unbearably tragic. • Bill Watterson

In my imagined memories I assert myself, tell my teachers no, refuse to do more of the same-old-thing, confess my ignorance, celebrate my strengths. In reality, I did none of these things. I was physically visible in my beautiful-to-me outfits, but I was intellectually invisible. What good were brains?

I hated school. Even to this day when I see a school bus it’s just depressing to me. The poor little kids. • Dolly Parton

Ranting digression: The start of school is on my mind because stores are getting ready for day one before I’ve even finished my final day. I’m still teaching. June is too early to start getting the shelves full of school supplies, but they were already appearing. July arrived and red-white-blue was quickly replaced by the colors of back-to-school. This happens every year, and while I can live with turkeys in August and Santa in September, there’s something about pencils and crayons and rulers and lined paper and bottles of glue and all the rest of it lining July shelves that irks me.

Certain peer pressures encourage little fingers to learn how to hold a football instead of a crayon.  Rumors circulate around the schoolyard:  kids who draw or wear white socks and bring violins to school on Wednesdays might have cooties.  I confess to having yielded to these pressures.  • Chris Van Allsburg

Thinking and asking questions only got me in trouble in school and at home. I learned my lessons well just like thousands of other children will learn or have confirmed this year when school starts again. They’ll comply, think convergently, take tests, raise their hands before talking, line up quietly, follow the rules, and learn to play all the games that adults believe good little girls and boys need to know in order to make it through life.

But I hope that they’ll also learn other things. How to think for themselves. How to have ideas. How to question accepted truth. How to ferret out lies. How to create, whether it’s with words or music or movement or with all the marvelous hands-on stuff the world is full of. How to appreciate themselves and how to appreciate others. How to find joy in little things. How to be optimistic and realistic at the same time. How to be themselves and revel in it.

Actually, all education is self-education.  A teacher is only a guide, to point out the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you education.  What you receive is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book.  You must fill in the colors yourself. • Louis L’Amour

What do you hope children will learn in school this fall?

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him [or her] to learn by creating curiosity, s/he will continue the learning process as long as s/he lives.• Clay P. Bedford

* This quotation is attributed to both Juan Ramon Ramirez and William Carlos Williams, so I provide both.

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