Thursday, November 10, 2011


Today I am thankful for my education, even though it's not serving me very well today.  Or maybe I'm just lacking the focus to keep on task.  In any event, I'm very thankful for my education.  (That and I only use about 1% of my college education in my "adult" life...)

This goes beyond the normal "we're so lucky to live in a country where school is available to everyone" kind of thanks.  I mean, I look around at stories from other countries, notably South America, South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa and see how truly blessed I am to live in a country where as a girl I was not only allowed to go to school, but expected to.  But, it's more than that.

I was so very fortunate growing up and into college that I had some really awesome teachers.  I have memories of some great teachers at Earhart who really did have a passion for teaching and their students.
In Intermediate school, there was Mr. Monaghan, who would leave an impression on me for the rest of my life.  He was the first teacher in my time in PA that I wanted to do well for.  I enjoyed his classes and I knew he cared.  Of course, he was a science teacher, which is something that has always fascinated me.  I'll never forget the end of the first semester my 7th grade year, when I had a different science teacher and had squeaked by with a C.  The shame I felt as I couldn't take my eyes off my toes when he asked me how my science grade was when he saw me in the hall is something I never want to feel again.  That very night he called my parents and asked if he could get me switched into his class.  He knew it was the teacher, not me, that was having the problems.  My parents, being the people they are said yes, but we had to wait until the middle of the year to make the switch.  Just knowing that it was coming got me through the next quarter.  I am so thankful for his faith in me.
In high school, it was Mr. Monaghan's own childhood friend who was my biology teacher that would become a favorite.  Mr. Marriner pushed me hard and challenged me and treated me like a real person.  He saw through the non-homework completing, paper-ignoring person I was and saw that all I needed was a little understanding and a swift kick from time to time.  (Well, not literally a swift kick, but you get my meaning.)
In college it was Dr. Wolf, a.k.a Big Wolf.  (We had Dr. Wolf and Dr. Wolfe in the department, so... they were Big Wolf and Little Wolf.  Their titles really did fit their personalities...)  Big Wolf became my adviser when I switched from Chemistry to Biology.  He was the one who worked with me after my disastrous senior year to help get me to a point where I could graduate.  He came up with my independent study.  He calmly asked me how I could manage to do so well on the MFAT (major field achievement test, kinda like an AP test or the SAT... I was in the 90th or 95th percentile overall the year I took it...) and have such lousy grades over all.  I just as calmly pointed out my history of not doing papers, my hard time with rote memorization for lab practicals and that my test scores were usually high.

So, I was very lucky to have such wonderful and supportive teachers in my life.  I'm also thankful to the awesome start I got at Earhart.  I learned early on that all the subjects were really connected and that if you ask questions, you'll get answers and that I can figure things out on my own.  Unfortunately, these days I don't see a lot of problem solving, student led investigation going on in the public schools.  Everything is test oriented, which makes learning and school a chore, not a joy.

I'm also thankful that I didn't take "everyone's" advice and become a teacher myself.  Sure, I know I could do an awesome job at it.  I always got very good reviews at the Nature Center, and that's without any real formal training in teaching.  But, if all the meetings and rules and, well, bologna I've been dealing with just trying to get my Girl Scout troop started is any indication, No Child Left Behind is a bear and a half to deal with.  No, we don't have anything to do with that, but I can't help but think about how much administrative stuff I have to do, and this isn't even school, but something fun!  I can only imagine what the "real" teachers have to deal with.

Of course, this makes me a bit worried about the future of education in this country.  Especially since I have a boy-o who in a year or two will be entering the school-aged realm.  I'm thankful that we have a choice.  Even if we decide to send him to our public school (which actually does have a pretty good rating, but again, I don't trust that with how NCLB works...) I'll know that I had a choice of where to send him and how he gets taught.  Sure, private school costs a lot and the decision may be taken out of our hands because of that, but at least we'll have the option of trying to go down that road.

What got me thinking about this is an article I read from the New York Times yesterday.  (I posted it on Facebook...).  It talks about science majors and why so many of us change majors, don't even get degrees or if we do, end up in totally different fields (like software support...).  I agree with most of what's in that article, having lived through it in the late 1990's.

Anyhow, I've rambled on about this long enough and have more than overspent my lunch hour.  Back to work I go.

Peace to all and may you find something in your education to be thankful for.

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