It may seem somewhat odd to hear a teacher say they hate school. It just doesn’t sound right. After all, if one hated school, why become a teacher.
I became a teacher because that is what I wanted to do. I’m not sure where it came from other than I was born with this. If I wasn’t a teacher, I could do other jobs; but teaching is where I come alive. And if I wanted to teach young adults, it had to be in a school since school is prima facie the most economical way to deliver society-wide education and that is where teaching jobs are. That said, there is a big difference between a school and an individual classroom. School can be something that happens outside the classroom.
Now my school is pretty fantastic, as are many others. So I am not writing about a particular school, but rather school as a concept. I think of a 4 or 5 year old child who has spent most of all of his/her short life with Mum (sometimes Dad). They usually have had exclusive access to a nurturing experience within which s/he has grown and developed and learned buckets of things – including how to talk, construct sentences, sing, create stories and paint the most fantastic works of art (they may not think it so when they are 21 but we know how fantastic that first finger painting is!).
And when the time arrives, we drag them away to an over-crowded alien environment often enclosed with high metal fencing (sometimes topped with barbed wire!) with hordes of often screaming, noisy, boisterous, lice ridden (occasionally), chicken-pox-y, fluey other people. Sounds a lot like prison, doesn’t it.
It is hardly a more attractive alternative to the learning environment of the last 4 or 5 years. This is not to deny that there are many children for whom school is a relief from what home has to offer. But as a concept – I don’t think school as a ‘place of learning’ can compete with the experience of the home as an educational environment. A generalisation to be sure, but I think you get the point.
I am not an advocate for homeschooling. Or at least, not exclusive homeschooling. I think school has a lot to offer both in and beyond the formal curriculum just as homeschooling has a lot to offer in terms of the formal curriculum.
What I think teachers, school leaders and government should bear in mind (i.e. keep it in their mind on an ongoing thing) is that school is not perfect. Nor can it be. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to explore ways in which to make school more reflective of the learning environment in which children first learn. I don’t mean it should be all cuddles and hugs. But concepts such as that in Finland of ‘school mother‘ are indicative of an effort to make school more homely.
In Ireland, we are about to embark on what I believe is a misguided ‘reform’ of our education system. There are many arguments for my position but one notable one is that nothing is being said about the impact of the school environment on learning success. Sadly, in this regard, there is much that remains to be learned.
So while I am not an out-and-out advocate for homeschooling, I do think we need something more like Home/Schools. If schools were a more natural extension of home and how learning occurs there, I think we could go some way to resolving many of the ills of school.