Give Credit to Your Child where Credit is Due!

What is your thought of a bumper sticker "Thank a Teacher" if you see one? On our scenic way home from Eugene a couple of weeks ago, we had a deep discussion over this. Who do we really thank when we don't view ourselves as our kids' teachers.

With Barb Kuhlman's graceful written permission, we like to share her personal sentiment sent to Home Education Magazine, published recently in Volume 24 Number 5.

Dear Linda Dobson: This letter is in response to your column on the "Thank a Teacher" bumper stickers that exist, and though I share your exasperation over them, I think I look at them differently than you do I would never advocate "I can read this, so I thank my Mother" bumper stickers either. Or Father, or neighbor, or even my favorite novelist, poet, cartoonist, essayist, graphic novelist, blogger, letter or technical writer, or whoever's written output inspired me to want to read. At the most basic level, I think I read because I wanted to, and so I learned. I think the same is true for my kids, and everyone else's.

If we came to a conference and you were handing out your bumper stickers, I think my kids would politely take one to be nice, and maybe remember fondly our library trips, but they know who put in the seat time with the Tin Tin books, and it wasn't me. I don't mean to minimize gratefulness here, or intimate that I don't have an appreciation for Tin Tin or my own mother, but it is so important to see clearly and honestly the roles that various actors have had on our endeavors, and accurately represent them, especially in such a embattled arena as "education."

People forever want to grab the credit when it is actually the learner doing the learning. I can "teach" 'til I'm blue in the face, but if my sons aren't interested it's just my jaws flapping. Once while gardening in my plot in the community garden I had a chance to talk to a publicly schooled girl who was probably about 11 or 12 years old who was companionably helping me weed, and questioning me closely about my son's home school education. She told me closely about my son's home school education. She told me that they couldn't learn anything if they didn't have a teacher. As I remember it, she kind of set me off on the topic of you are a powerful person, and whatever you are able to achieve, it is because you have achieved it. Whatever you know, you know not because you were taught, but because you put it together. Her eyes were very large by the time I was finished, but I don't think I probably changed her opinions. She mostly looked very surprised, and left before that crazy woman with flapping jaws away and dis-empowering herself for a long time.

It definitely seems like people are coming from all different directions when talking about what education means, who is responsible for it, and how to achieve it, whatever it is. Everyone has their own goals and ideas, no one is listening to anyone else, and it does seem like nothing is going to improve any time soon. Endless scrutiny is paid to content and teaching in public schools and even home schools, but it is almost amusing how little attention gets paid to the ones doing the work--the learners. People have the hardest time listening to the ones who should be doing the most talking about what they need to succeed--that is, the learners. I'm sure that a bumper sticker is an impossible medium for conveying the ideas that need to be addressed to make a difference in anyone's opinions or actions, as most times it seems that just the defining of terms is a major battle. But I still believe in children as learners, and their power to achieve, if we can just not throw up too many roadblocks in the way of what they want to do. Especially in light of our culture's emphasis on it, I'm thankful that my children can read. Maybe that would be my bumper sticker. "I'm thankful that my children can read." Or "Listen to your child," Or "I let my child check out every Tin Tin book in the library about twenty times, because that is what he needed to learn to read." That would be the truth.

Barb Kuhlman

0 encouragements:

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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