The preschool bus, part 3
Part three is supposed to be about this:
3: I’m afraid of letting her go off into the world, period. It’s fucking dangerous.
But you know what? I have nothing to say on that subject. Listing all the things I’m afraid of, from tiny to ginormous, is not going to make me feel better. So it’s on to 4.
I will probably come up with at least one additional thing as I think this through.
I’m not sure whether it’s one or many things, but I’ve been wondering whether I was panicking about preschool mostly because of the emotional turbulence that surrounded my entry into the educational system, and because of my own educational experiences.
My formal education began with Head Start in a tiny rural town. (It’s a kind of federal preschool for poor folk, in case you’ve never heard of it.) I mostly remember rubbing my teacher’s lipstick all over my face when I was supposed to be napping and then telling her I didn’t know HOW my face got like that. At home, things were shitty. My parents had just divorced, and my mother had just had an abortion, and she was clinically depressed. Before she could even get un-depressed, she got pregnant again. She made us move somewhere else, so I started kindergarten in a new place, with a depressed, pregnant mother. I don’t remember the kindergarten experience, but my mother says it was a really bad school and usually cries. A few months later, we moved again, and she left us for the duration of her pregnancy, so I was abandoned by my depressed, pregnant mother. When I think about my children starting school in such circumstances, it makes me really sad. That’s not how it should be. So maybe the fear I felt when I thought about Bun Bun starting preschool is not about MY children, but Little Me reliving what I felt then.
I attended mostly shitty schools, though my second high school was pretty good. I’m not sure what I learned from any of them, good or bad. We covered some material, which left me with some fuzzy recollections. Like, cathedrals were important in European history because….uh…they were. Sure, I learned to read and write and cipher, but I feel like I didn’t learn how to learn until I was a graduate student. Was that a product of the schools? If I’d gone to better schools at a younger age, would I have learned more? I think about that a lot–how HUGE of a genius would I have been if I’d just had some good education?
For research purposes, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about teaching and learning, and the consensus seems to be: American schools demand that students acquire ever more knowledge, while refusing to change teaching methods, despite the fact that these methods do not lead to real learning. So students learn facts in a shallow way, then forget them. Sounds about right. Do better schools do better? Maybe. I’m dubious. Often “better” is based on test scores, and test scores are in part responsible for the shallow learning trend… No question there are schools that do teaching right, where students learn real things in real ways. But my current suspicion is it’s quite hard to tell from the outside.
But if not masses of deep learning, what did I get from my education? Interactions with a few good teachers. I’m not even sure why I think they were good, but they changed me and I remember them. So…I want the Buns to have as many good teachers as possible.
And I got my interactions with friends. Not many, on account of my introversion and constant moving around, but those I made, particularly towards the end…again, they changed me and are still my friends. My life would have been totally different without them. So…I want the Buns to have as many good friends as possible, the right kind. The creative, loyal, thoughtful, slightly bad kind.
I think the assumption is that good teachers are more common in better schools, and that may be true. But there are certainly good teachers at shit schools, too–I had some. And the same is probably true of good friends. They’ll meet these people, they’ll be changed, and this will happen wherever they end up. And as for the actual learning of stuff? I suspect that it will be mostly up to them, regardless.