Re: the right to pursue excellence
Sat, 10 May 1997 07:25:07 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 97-05-10 00:46:43 EDT, Cathy wrote:

<< Though I want to point out, that just because a teacher is in charge, and
accepted by kids as in charge of the classroom, does *NOT* mean that any
of the things you mentioned *MUST* necessarily follow. Teachers and kids
can have a humane, reasonable relationship, when the teachers behave more
like sensitive parents than like drill sargents >>


I spent several years teaching in public schools and trying to get as close
to what we now refer to as "democratic schooling" as I could. (This was
before we had begun The Highland School and before I had discovered that SVS
existed.) I had the most excellently supportive principal, parents who
wanted their kids to be in that type of classroom, and kids who were excited
and eager to engage in learning. In short, I had about as ideal asituation
as one could ever expect to find. I believe that we did excellent work and I
enjoyed very warm and "humane" relationships with the kids.

I also had to fight against the school board, some of whom wanted to shut
down classrooms like ours.

I also had to constantly deal with some other teachers who, for example, upon
looking at our "Science/Art/Animals Room" (not the neatest room in the
building)would curl up one side of their lip and ask, "Do you let students
work in here?" or would complain to the principal (after looking in on our
"Quiet Room" and seeing kids reading while draped all over the rug and the
couch and the tables or sitting on my lap reading to me) that, "No one can
learn in that sort of environment!"

I also had to push extremely hard against part of the upper administration
for permission to tak certain trips that were "Not part of the normal
curriculum" or to get an advanced math book for one kid because, "What will
his math teacher do next year?"

In sum, it's sort of like Fritz Perls' metaphor of "pushing the river." The
river of the traditional educational paradigm flows along in a mighty
torrent. Our feeble attempts to resist it or to push it in another direction
usually end up with us being "washed away", in my case toward democratic