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I Am Much Too Alone in the World, and not Alone Enough

Today, I talked with students whose main concern about school is they do not like it. One thing I gleaned was a reluctance to accept personal responsibility which should be something students learn in school. There are reasons for this lack of responsibility. One that is overlooked is responsibility is taken away from children.

What made this an interesting conversation was some of these students are ‘special needs’. In many ways they are bright, articulate problem-solvers frustrated by a system that has failed them leaving them to feel as if they were failing. They see school as a place they have to go and not a place of learning.

What was disconcerting is I am told just get them these students through the system. These children are someone else’s problem next year. We shuffle these students from school to school in this fashion, in effect sorted out of the failed system. Educators, politicians, and bureaucrats fail them daily.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote this poem and it reminded me of one thing humans want in life: free will and to be part of conversations about them in honest ways. School is not  a game played with unrevealed rules, but a place of learning. What if adults took time, listened to children, and helped them find the path where we each learn new words each day?

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everyday jug,
like my mother’s face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

About ivonprefontaine

I have been an educator for almost 20 years. Prior to that, I worked in private industry for 15 years, then returned to university to earn my education degree. For the past 11 years, I have been a co-creator of learning in a unique, progressive, alternative educational school of choice. Currently, I am engaged in a doctoral program at Gonzaga University in Spokane. A main theme in my learning there has been the roles of systems thinking, complexity theory, and organizational theory, and how they apply to education generally and the learning environment I share with students, parents, and colleagues.

20 responses »

  1. This is frustrating. I’m thinking that it’s even more frustrating for a teacher to see the students being shuffled around like this.
    It does all have to start in the home. Kids will usually have a more positive view if they get the parental support needed fr education. I see so many parents who send their kids to school & expect teachers to not only teach – but – practically raise their children too. So sad.

    Reply
    • It does begin in the home RoSy. I see the contrast between the two groups I teach. One group is well-supported and the children come to school as part of their learning. The other group has some supportive parents, but a variety of circumstances make it challenging. Some of those families do not support at all. It does take a village to raise children, but educators tend to shy away from honest and strong relationships with families. I don’t, but that is rare.

      Reply
  2. “They see school as a place they have to go and not a place of learning” – This single line depicts the state of education today in most parts of the world. Very genuinely said.

    Here in India education has one primary objective in the minds of those who runs schools “Education industry is evergreen business source of income and let us make more money”. The sense of responsibility to provide quality learning and the seriousness to be shown on being accountable for millions of children’s future are hard to find.

    Do not know about USA, here much of the private educational institutions are run by people with political background or people, only with money driven minds. There is no quality free education here. Lot to say negative but of no use. Let us do what we can do best to the students in our own way.

    Rightly said words.. Keep posting. Love to see your perspectives on education. Lets be the change.

    Reply
    • Thank you Dinesh. In Canada, we are moving towards an Americanized system with more focus on the money making part. I have often wondered about India’s educational system. Does it reach all children? You have answered that it does not.

      Reply
  3. Ivon, I so understand this, my husband has two daughters that are now 22. Both special needs. One was able to qualify for special classes and just graduated from the 18-22 year-old program. The other was just above the score that would allow her to go to these classes. There is much frustration with the varying systems and with finding the right connections for these children. Thank you for your approach and willingness to speak out for what is correct. We need more teachers like you. Blessings to you!

    Tina

    Reply
  4. kdavisfanclub

    Excellent! A sentiment shared by many! superb poem, sir! All the best from Baldy :)

    Reply
  5. Well said. I see more and more people, young and old, are becoming good at blaming rather than accepting personal responsibility, sadly to say.
    Thank you for sharing your insights, Ivon!

    Reply
  6. “..Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
    for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
    I want my conscience to be
    true before you;..”

    wow, these words are meant for everybody, every single one of us. I would want to change only one word – from YOU to MYSELF. I want my conscience to be true before myself.

    Nicely said about the failed system in teaching kids and also adults to be responsible not just in a typical social way but also responsible to do the right thing for themselves.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the wonderful comment Dace. Those lines really caught my eye as well. I agree with the word change as real change is something that begins with my self and ripples outward.

      Reply
  7. Rilke is my favourite poet.

    Reply
  8. We so desperately need a change in public education.

    “In many ways they are bright, articulate problem-solvers frustrated by a system that has failed them leaving them to feel as if they were failing. They see school as a place they have to go and not a place of learning.”

    This is so familiar to me, having subbed, mostly middle school, years ago. I was always given classes of learning challenged kids to work with. And my assessment of “the problem” is that the system doesn’t serve them, more than the other way around.

    Reply
  9. The tragedy is that there is a prejudice that remains with the child all through the school system that labels them a failure, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for life.

    Reply

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