The best of days

school cropped

It is often said that school days are the best days of our lives.

Considering that I have had far more days at school than not (as student and teacher) then I should probably agree, else I’d be saying that most of my days haven’t been the best.

For many adults it is not the in-class time that is most memorable or of which they have the most pleasant memories, it is the playtimes and the before and after walking to and from school times.

For some children, the in-class time drags while they daydream of long summer holidays and activities with family and friends. Other children thrive with the structured learning, soaking up everything offered to them.

19178-School-Building-Graphic

In her post, School: A Suitable Place for Fiction? Anne Goodwin wrote that she is ‘always pleasantly surprised when children these days claim to enjoy school’. On the other hand, in a comment left on previous post here, Lori Schafer said that all her life she had ‘failed to understand why most children don’t like school. Why don’t they enjoy learning, and why don’t they enjoying studying, and why don’t they enjoy writing papers? Because, of course, there are a small percentage of us who do genuinely appreciate the discipline of schooling.’ She was one of them.

In his post, School’s Out – and Education’s In, Geoff Le Pard said that ‘People confuse school with education, as if they were synonymous’. (I have written a poem to express differences I see between education and schooling. You can read it here.) He goes on to say that ‘education is a constant, not a time limited schooling experience’ and disagrees with the cliché that school days are the best. He says that ‘all those days and bits of days when learning occurs make up the best days of your life’. I agree with Geoff that learning new things, particularly things one has an intrinsic motivation to learn, gives great joy.

Irene Waters said in her post about school that she loved her primary school days. As the end of her high school years approached, unable to see the point in continuing, Irene wanted to leave and start her nursing career. Her parents convinced her to stay and finish year twelve. While she didn’t at the time, she now appreciates the value in having done so and is grateful that her ‘parents laid down the law’.

Talking about education and schooling is nothing new for me, that’s what my blog is about after all. However for a lot of people, once finished, school is a thing of the past and not much thought is given to it later. The reason why so many others are talking about it this week is the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Each week Charli challenges writers to pen a 99 word story about a particular topic. This week her topic is school.

old school room

In her post, Charli describes an abandoned one-room schoolhouse that is close to her home. She explains that these schoolhouses ‘were often among the first structures built by pioneers’ and comments on the importance that was placed on education in those pioneering days. Indeed education has been important throughout the history of humankind. It is what sets us apart from other creatures.

In the words of Jean Piaget,

The-principal-goal-of education - Piaget

I have touched on these aspects of education in previous posts and will definitely do so again in future posts.

In a tweet Anne Goodwin hinted that she thought I may find this post difficult to write as I have so many options to choose from. Charli Mills thought I might mention how we wrote on slates when I was at school (my children would probably have suggested I write about using dinosaur bones to scratch crude messages in the sand!)

Instead, I thought about the strategies schools use to create uniformity, and of the many pathways that one may take through life after finishing school.  I hope the analogy makes sense to you.

 teacherbell

Chocolate balls

The final school bell tolled and the students erupted from the building like a burst box of chocolate balls, scattering in every direction and at varying speeds. Some stuck together along pathways safe and sure. Others crashed and bumped over roads less traveled seeking excitement, new discoveries and secrets to explore. Others stopped abruptly, their journeys foiled by stubborn obstacles. Still others, rolling upwards, failed to maintain the momentum to carry them over and beyond with those more adventurous others.  

Who would know?

Inside the box, they were identical, centers hidden. Outside, their uniqueness was on show.

My year 10 class - only 20 went on to year 12.

My year 10 class – only 20 went on to year 12.

I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

22 thoughts on “The best of days

  1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Loved the flash Norah. It is a lovely visual created by the chocolate balls and the children escaping the confines of the classroom and I loved how you exploded their individualism once outside like a chocolate explosion. The chocolate explosion I am full cognizant and transferring that to little folk a wonderful analogy. As always your preamble and inclusion of other rough writers led into it beautifully.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Irene. I’m pleased you enjoyed the chocolate analogy! Your inclusion in the group of rough writers added value to the preamble – lucky thing I read a few other posts before posting mine this time. I usually hold off reading until I have finished mine so I don’t get distracted. I did write my flash before reading though. 🙂

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  2. Charli Mills

    When I saw your link show up, I waited until I had the time to come over here and savor what you developed (though I was tempted to taste immediately at all the chocolate hints). As Anne said, terrific management of other opinions and comments expressed in your blogosphere. She also mentioned that creative individuals might be undesirable by capitalistic governments. I’ve often had that thought because of how the focus on test scores in the American system greatly overshadows critical thinking. In fact, I was appalled by how it was not taught in the bigger suburban schools. Perhaps another discussion for another day.

    As for creativity, I can always count on you being creative! To me that’s a sign that you are still engaged with learning and what lucky students you’ve had! A good teacher shines brighter than any system. Love the chocolate ball analogy! I can see the students pouring out the doors like rolling malt balls from a box! As a teacher, does that make you a wrangler of chocolate balls? That’s a fancy job title! Thanks for the thoughtful post and all the generous links and inclusion!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Charli, Your waiting reminded me a little of the marshmallow test but the rewards wouldn’t be quite in the same league as s’mores! 🙂
      I think the issue of critical thinking (and lack thereof in schools) will surface quite a few times on my blog. The focus on test scores is a very sad trend in education.
      Thanks for your kind words about my teaching. Yesterday I bumped into a couple of parents of children I taught a few years back (we didn’t hurt each other!) and they too were very generous with their comments. I do appreciate it for much of what we teachers do can go unnoticed – until it is something that somebody doesn’t like!
      A wrangler of chocolate balls – that is an interesting title – I don’t mind wrangling a few Lindt balls from time to time! Those I may not be quite so good at sharing, but I love sharing all the wonderful ideas that appear on my blog. Thank you for sharing yours. 🙂

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  3. Annecdotist

    I love how you’ve drawn on the various points of view of your blogging friends – seems right that you should have the overview. Irene’s comment reminds me of feeling unsettled at school between sixteen and seventeen and wanting to leave. I wasn’t under any pressure from parents to continue but didn’t fancy the jobs that were on offer if I left.
    Good to see the quote from Piaget but I think it’s a bit like definitions of the purpose of prisons: the liberals want it to be about rehabilitation whereas many see it primarily as punishment. Likewise, I’m not convinced governments want creative individuals; they might stop the endless consuming on which capitalism depends.
    I enjoyed the symbolism of your flash – it definitely works for me and I see within it many of the themes you’ve explored here on your blog. But is “chocolate balls” a term you’d in Australia? I don’t think we’d say that here. It brought to mind Maltesers but I thought you might be reluctant to advertise?

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    1. Bec

      I agree very strongly with you Anne – in regards to your remark on how those in power may be reluctant to encourage creative thinking and new ideas – rather we seem to be being shaped constantly to be complacent, obedient, and inward looking. I’m reading an issue of the ‘New Philosopher’ magazine at the moment – a fantastic publication but as it’s Australian perhaps it’s not available on your side of the planet, and it’s only up to issue 5 – themed on narcissism and the sense of self. In more than a couple of the article, there has been reflection on how the growing individualisation of our society encourages self-interest in the name of capitalism, but the way we are schooled gives us the space for thinking only within these social bounds – as if these economic and social systems are a constant within which we function. Certainly, creative thinkers graduating from school may be the folks who would challenge the idea that self-interest is best, and that maybe there are alternative futures out there, as opposed to the one into which our freight train of a society seems destined to crash….

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      1. Annecdotist

        I think I get what you mean, Bec. It’s a very childlike self-interest that is encouraged by the sociopolitical system but, because it’s so dependent on material rewards and anxiety about others have been better things than we have, it actually lowers self-esteem. When are you going to start the revolution?

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      2. Norah Post author

        Hi Bec,
        You have certainly decided to dig deeper into this one! Thank you for extending the thinking. I love the idea of alternative futures and I agree that education is the way to do that. There is a saying something like ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. I think that is very true and I think our education systems are constantly trying to breed sameness and conformity rather than individuality and creativity. However, a lot of wonderful progress is being made in science and technology (e.g. medicine) so there must be some good things happening somewhere, or some great minds able to survive despite the imposition of a content and test driven curriculum.
        Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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    2. Norah Post author

      Hi Anne,
      I’m pleased I have so many thoughtful and responsive friends whose thoughts I am able to share!
      How wonderful that you finished school, and then went on to complete so much other study! Very admirable!
      I think, for me, Piaget’s quote is a what should be, not a what is – it’s in my dreams. I agree it is not in the dreams of most governments. Sadly.
      I’m pleased the symbolism of my flash works for you. When I was first thinking of my piece I was thinking about Jaffas and the way they spread out everywhere if the box is dropped, just like children when the bell rings to end the school day. Then I did think of Maltesers, and lastly my favourite: Lindt balls! They gave me the different centres. In my current (paid) work we avoid referring to any products with their trademark or brand name and use generic terms, so I carried that over here. I did think naming one product would limit the imagination also – didn’t want to do that either! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  4. TanGental

    First thank you for the link and charming words. Second I love the imagery in the flash; chocolate balls – truffle teenagers! Sadly this then put me in mind of that awful Tom Hanks movie with the ‘Life is a box of chocolates’ crap which in turn reminded me of a rather cynical (though hugely inspiring) history teacher I had when I was 16, whose take was ‘Life is a like a sewer – what you get out of it depends on what you put into it’). The best bit was ‘some stuck together..’ both true of chocolates and of adolescents.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Geoff. Thanks for your comment. I wondered if my chocolate balls may have been a bit too similar to ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’. That’s not really what got me thinking though. I was thinking about dropping a box of Jaffas and how they just scatter every which way, a bit like children getting out of school at the end of the day; and then at the end of school. I think I prefer the chocolate box analogy to life over the sewer one – you only put crap in there, so that’s all you could hope to get out! I like your idea of ‘truffle teenagers” – sometimes you just have to dig around to get the best bits! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  5. lucciagray

    Truly wonderful post. I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years, and I agree With everything you have all (Norah, Anne, Lori, Geoff, Irene, Charlie) expressed so well. I feel obliged to write a post on the subject. Perhaps next week, when I go back to school after the summer holidays.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased you enjoyed it Luccia. I look forward to reading your post these thoughts have stimulated. I hope you enjoy the new school year and feel refreshed after your summer holidays. What ages of children do you teach?

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  6. Sherri

    Hi Norah! I’ve been trying to get over to your blog for some time since reading your comments and posts over at Charli’s blog and I’m glad to finally be doing so. I’m always so late with my flash entry! Meanwhile and catching up I love your ‘school’ flash. Who knows indeed what is hidden in those centres? Good to meet you at last – Sherri 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Sherri,
      Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment. It’s lovely to have you join in the conversation. I’m usually at the tail end with my flash entry too – just squeeze in at the end. Have you submitted this week? I usually (but not always) wait until the compilation to read. I have read a few early this time.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed my flash. I look forward to future conversations with you. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Lovely to meet up Norah and thanks so much for coming over to my blog. Have replied over there 🙂 Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get my flash in after all which is a shame, but I look forward to reading everyone else’s in Charli’s compilation. Here’s to more chats and happy writing 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks Sherri. Maybe you’ll join in with flash in the future. There’s no compulsion. Thanks for reading and commenting though. I certainly look forward to more chats and more writing! 🙂

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