I think about education. A lot. You could say it consumes me. It has been my lifelong passion, and although I am not currently in the classroom I don’t stop thinking and reading about how we learn and how learning can best be encouraged. My discontent with how schooling often is and my optimism for what it could be has been a recurring theme on my blog and a driving force in my life. You would not have to open too many posts to find at least one expressing that view.
My poem “Education Is” sums up the differences I see between education and schooling. Some schools do education really well. Some professing to be educational institutions school, very badly. What I consider to be one of the major differences is that education encourages a love of learning that lasts a lifetime; while schooling attempts to force-feed content in such a way that learning is neither enjoyed nor viewed as anything other than what one is forced to do in school.
In traditional schools assessment often takes the form a test which requires students to regurgitate information that has been thrust upon them, whether they like it, or are interested in it, or not. This occurs across all subject areas. I have written about it before in relation to writing tasks in these three posts: Writing to order – done in a flash! Writing woes – flash fiction and Who tests the testers?
I contrasted my choice of responding to Charli Mills’ flash fiction prompts to the lack of choice students have in state- or nation-wide writing tasks. In Writing woes – flash fiction I suggested that it would be difficult for me, on a given day, with a restricted amount of time, under the watchful eyes of supervisors, to produce my best work in response to a prompt about which I may have little experience, knowledge or interest.
In my flash fiction responses I introduced a unicorn as a symbol of escape from the confines of the classroom or other oppressive situation, into the space where one is free to truly be oneself. It wasn’t a deliberate or premeditated choice, simply a response to Charli’s prompt. However I am happy to adopt it in my flash fiction as a symbol of playfulness and imagination unleashed; the basis for all great inquiry and innovation. Thank you, Charli, for the prompt!
I introduced the unicorn in the post Of rainbows and unicorns – Part 1 – Fantastic creatures and magical realms and used it again in What do you have in mind? , I’m too busy to be tired! And Reading is all it’s cracked up to be: 10 tips for an early childhood classroom
I have returned to both these themes again in response to Charli’s most recent prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story inspired by your muse. I’m not certain who my muse is, but I am certain that it would be very difficult to call upon a muse to assist when writing in a test situation such as that expected of students in school.
My piece is titled ‘Failure’, but this is the question I have for you: Who really deserves the “F”? Whose failure is it really?
She spluttered out the splinters of pencil: no longer tasty, never helpful. The assessor’s steely eyes pounced. She wiped the last vestiges from her mouth; staring blankly, as blank as the paper in front of her.
Outside the sunlight danced like fairies on the leaves, beckoning. Below, in the shade, the unicorn pranced and called her name.
“Why do I have to do this stuff? Who cares anyway!”
She grasped the broken pencil and scored a large “F” on the page.
Then she closed her eyes and was away, riding to freedom and joy on the unicorn’s back.
What do you think?
I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or my flash fiction writing.
If you are interested in reading other of my flash fictions pieces, I have collected them all together on one page which you can access here or click on the Flash Fiction tab above.