We’re Doing This All Wrong

We’re doing this all wrong.

Some day … somehow … education will discover a proper obsession.


Until then … children will suffer these testing-despots … and too many adults will make believe it’s all okay.

And it’s not.

Lots of things in life just can’t be measured … because they can’t even be defined.

Love. Creativity. Curiosity. Courage. Passion.

So, if you want a real thinker to blossom from childhood, don’t measure them at every turn. Indulge them in their own curiosities … and they’ll measure themselves and shine for all of ever.

American education is now controlled by self-imagined geniuses … short-stay aliens who parachute into classrooms … and then dash off.

Most share one important experience:

They have no experience.

Few have ever spent a morning on a kindergarten floor … or in a hot-hot circular discussion with lively seventh graders … or faced off against wing-spreading high schoolers who have suddenly come of age.

Because they’re not real-deal teachers.

Teachers see miracle moments all the time. They make them happen.

Real teachers don’t care about percentiles … or modules … or mean scores. Their craft … their genius … is all about kids. How to grow ’em … and keep ’em curious.

Then the rest tumbles into place. 

The important thing to remember about education is that it can never be measured very neatly … or really reduced to graphs or charts or tables.

And here’s why.

Education … real, real, real education … is all about people. And every learner is in the process of … of … of becoming.

Yeah …. becoming.

That’s what education is all about … becoming.

And tidy assessments of “becoming” don’t cut it. Because they can’t cut it. Because these kids are people …  so they’re loaded with billions of those variables that make us all so different. Got it?

So … right from the start, these gurus have misunderstood what they’re measuring … so why should we ever take them seriously?

Instead of pushing bubble-sheets, why not ask them about the passions they don’t even know they have? And their talents they can’t even see?  Or the gift they have for this or that?

Maybe we just get out of their way for a change. Maybe just look and learn. Maybe stop bothering them so much. Maybe just nudge them now and again to … to become what’s inside those tiny bodies … and those gorgeous little minds.

What the heck is so hard to understand?

Stop bothering them so much.

Let ‘em be.

We should give every child lots of stuff. Like chances to run and sing and dance. And fall down. Chances to act their age … not as we tell them to act.  Let ’em sample lots of stuff  … and even walk away from things that just don’t do it for them.

Give ‘em chance to make choices … as much as possible … because life’s a stream of choices. The practice can’t hurt.

They need chances to work together … and to be left alone. Chances to drift into their own worlds … where they can imagine who they are … or might become.

They should have chances to feel safe … and to take risks. And to tell luscious-lovely tales … that we should all take very seriously … because that works both ways.

We should let them speak marvelous nonsense … and not interrupt … because they’re just exercising their imaginations. So we should listen … and shut up … and give them the floor for a change.


And, of course, we should teach them to speak and to count and to scribble. All of that will sprout … I promise … but never evenly enough to please those testing-tyrants … or the extra-serious beard-scratchers who just can’t leave childhood alone.

It always turns out messy when master-teachers are shoved aside because some know-it-all decides that teaching is a science … when it’s not.

Teaching is like conducting an orchestra … or directing a play … or sailing a ship. But most of all …. it’s about remembering. And becoming.

This is what happens when some of us grow too old and too forgetting of those teachers who swerved our lives … and helped us wriggle out of our cocoons.

Those fuzzy memory-people who polished some talent no one else saw. Or who just whispered us a perfect kindness at the perfect moment … when it was so badly needed. Or who just loved watching us become someone we never ever imagined we might become.

Someone like me. And you.

You get the point?

We’re obsessed about the wrong stuff.

We’re doing this all wrong.

Denis Ian


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