Last summer, I was a camp counselor. Every day, at “entertainment time”, the kids sat criss-cross-applesauce against the forest-muraled wall. One of the counselors would say, “Who wants to show their special talent?” and every arm would shoot fervently in the air. Some of the kids, overcome by excitement, would stand up shouting “Me, me, me!”. Their bellies would expand and contract rapidly as their breathing quickened with anticipation. The counselors stood facing the children, our shoulders moving up and down, the kids’ bellies moving in and out.
What happened during “entertainment time” embodies the most beautiful part of young children; they’re fearless. They will get up in front of anyone and do anything. They’ll show off their special talent without apprehension, even if that just entails jumping around, clapping their hands. If you asked the same of a group of high school students or adults, could you picture the same reaction? Would their hands shoot up in the air with enthusiasm? As we get older, our shoulders start to move up and down instead of our bellies moving in and out, our hands stop shooting up–we become afraid. And I know why.
It’s because of adults like I was in the moment when I shushed one child’s question and told him to go back to his coloring. It’s because of adults like I was in that moment, who don’t listen to or encourage questions. The ones who make children feel like being curious is bad. It’s because of a system of education that puts teachers in positions of authority with the job of doling out information like they are the only ones who possess it. We change as we get older because of the shushing teachers and the one size fits all education system. We go from fearless kids with no sense of limitations, to the very adults who answer the question “Why?” with “Because I’m the teacher,” and who teach kids, by showing them, that the proper way to breathe moves our shoulders up and down. In that moment, when I was in the position to encourage curiosity and hunger for knowledge, to teach the proper way to breathe, to be the teacher that I want as a student, I failed.
I didn’t like how it felt to be the adult who discouraged the curiosity that I attempted to retain throughout my years in public school. At The White Mountain School, I have experienced the support of teachers who encourage my yearning for knowledge and experiences. I can see the difference in how the two types of teaching have affected what I want to do and learn about. Formally or informally, I want to use all the experiences that I’ve had, from being taught by the creativity-stifling adult to being one, to ensure that students never stop putting their hands up. I want to teach by living my life as a never-ending “entertainment time” with my hands constantly reaching up in the air and by yelling, “Me, me, me! I am a dancer, I am an artist, I’m a scientist and a feminist and a teacher and a student!” with my belly heaving.