The Confused Ferrets of Education

Elsa is still learning how to be a ferret. Early shelter life impacted her, but she is watching the others and learning.

Sort of.

Sometimes she misses the point.

Today I watch as Ching Shih picks out her favorite food from the mixture and scurries under the bed to her personal stash, storing and eating only the best food. Elsa has been watching this for weeks. Today Elsa decides to “help” Ching Shih by grabbing any bit of food – often the large, least favorite pieces – and adds them to Ching Shih’s stash. She then gets very excited because she did the thing! A ferret thing!

The result is that Ching Shih now has a mix similar to the original.

At first glance, Elsa is doing the same thing as Ching Shih. She just missed an important detail of the behavior, not to mention its whole purpose.

As you might expect, my education geek’s brain instantly draws the comparison to how many schools tried to copy what what the school I co-created was doing, even including several details. They just missed the important ones, and the whole purpose.  The result is that most schools are similar to the original that people are trying to get away from.

Drawing a direct comparison to the above ferret cuteness, we aim to offer the best. Since student needs are very personal, the “best” is also personal. It requires empowering students to have the strongest voice in their education. Nurturing personal agency, and ultimately self-actualization, is at the heart of what we do. It’s the whole purpose.

So next time you see a program that says it’s self-paced but then has due dates, or says it’s personalized but uses only canned curriculum, just remember they are confused ferrets.  They often really think they are doing the thing! They just missed the point.

She Let Go by Reverend Safire Rose

Let GoShe let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

 

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

 

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

 

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

 

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

 

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

 

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

My daughter wants to be Neil Gaiman, and I’m good with that.

Note Cass left me before taking off on her adventure, promising to not die.

Note Cass left me before taking off on her adventure, promising not to die.

My daughter Cass is traveling the country with a cat named Juan and a chicken named Vanna. I could blame Neil Gaiman, but it’s probably my fault.

Here’s what I think happened.  Over the years, I would frequently ask my daughters the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We would then talk about how they can be anything and many things, even all at once.  And how they could change their minds along the way. It was a question that would inspire smiles, sometimes giggles, and I enjoyed how the answers changed over the years. Physical therapist. Astronomer. Teacher (where’d they get THAT idea?). One of my favorite responses from my youngest daughter, Heather, was “Scooby Doo.”

One day, however, my daughter Cass gave this answer: “Neil Gaiman.” That was the one she finally stuck with into adulthood.  It reflects her varied interests and creative pursuits. She saw a video of Neil advising aspiring writers to go live life, so Cass is on the go, working various jobs and having adventures.  And writing. And hopefully meeting Neil at an upcoming event.

Cass is what Emilie Wapnick would call a multipotentialite – someone with varied interests and creative pursuits. Emilie recently gave a TED Talk on multipotentialities where she explained that “the problem wasn’t that I didn’t have any interests — it’s that I had too many.” She described anxiety of the question, what do you want to be when you grow up (oops – sorry kids!).  However, she explains that this way of being doesn’t have to be a bad thing just because it doesn’t align with our current culture’s ideal of having one single true purpose.

It might even be in line with a reality that’s been around since the Baby Boomers who, per the USBLS, have held on average over 11 jobs in their lifetimes. Now the number of careers – not just jobs, but careers – is reaching the same level in our dynamic society. I know of people who have stayed in the same career so long that they found themselves among the long-term unemployed because their field of expertise or way of doing things disappeared.  Brian Fippinger of Q4 Consulting echoes this observation, and offers some great advice in his article The Job of a Lifetime No Longer Lasts a Lifetime.

The bottom line is that it is more important than ever to prepare students to be lifelong learners.  Being curious, exploring new pathways, and building a diverse resume can be a strategy for our modern world.  And when you ask them that question – as many of you will – use it as an opportunity to also discuss how life is really an adventure with lots of bends and forks in the road.

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Pictures of Cass

Cass and her partner Dan dressed up for a special adventure.

Cass and her partner Dan dressed up for a special adventure.

 

 

 

Cass after participating in a Run or Dye marathon.

Cass after participating in a Run or Dye marathon.

 

 

 

Cass and her kitty Juan on the road.

Cass and her kitty Juan on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cass has been in 6 or 7 states her first year on the go.