Recently, Scott McLeod shared the Google search for "School Makes Me . . ." in Dangerously Irrelevant. The results were depressing. School makes kids feel sad, stupid, depressed and angry. I get that. There were moments when school made me feel that way.
I get that, too. I had teachers who pushed me to grow. I have memories of excelling and feeling a sense of self-worth as a result. I remember teachers who cared and today, on my birthday, I am reminded, as I read birthday wishes from former students, that I've been a part of letting a few kids figure out what they could do instead of what they couldn't.
So, which is it?
I'm thinking it's both. School is a beautiful place with amazing opportunities. Students experience teachers who care deeply, who challenge them to think critically. School is where children grow and express themselves.
At the same time, school is a broken place where kids are bored, shamed, and stigmatized for being who they are. It is a testing factory filled with irrelevance. It is a place where a few bad teachers drone on about nothing and berate students over nothing more than a missing pencil.
But is that any different than families? You could look at families (as Russ Goerend did in this post) and point out that they are vital to our growth. Or you could say it's a place of shame. You could say the walls and rules keep kids safe or you could say that the walls are nothing more than a prison and parents are nothing more than tyrants.
I suppose it's all in how we word it. What is school "making" kids do? What is school "allowing" kids to do? Both questions are valid and both questions are necessary, because they ultimately lead us to a deeper realization: School is a broken, beautiful place, because the world is a broken and beautiful place, because humanity is broken and beautiful.
When I hold on to that paradox, I will have a chance of fixing the broken without ever truly giving up.I get to see the good and feel thankful for the tiny miracles that happen in a broken world. I am less likely to chase utopian dreams of the perfect answer. But more importantly, I remember that students are as beautiful and broken as the school itself and I am quicker to abandon expectations of perfection. It is in those moments that I can love my students.