Dr. Grauer's Weekly Assembly Address to The Grauer School Students
Dear Grauer School Students,
I want to talk about learning away from school. In the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, it seems like everything in education has changed overnight. Schools can’t use some of the old, classroom methods. Right now, it’s all about the parents and the students. At home.
We have suddenly returned to the way it was before this relatively new phenomenon, the mandatory school system. Before that, as far as we can tell, from the dawn of homo sapiens until about 150 years ago, education was optional, and it was mainly up to parents and the tribe. Through it, we thrived enough that we are still here.
Today’s school systems might not be as mandatory as we thought. There is no need to follow all of the requirements of the school systems, even at The Grauer School. In life, you can use whatever you find helpful or engaging. Even your best teachers will admit they are not experts at knowing all you need to learn or even half. One seven-year-old child I know recently noted about her teachers, “Did you know, they have no idea what they are doing?”
Teachers can help a lot, but the only super important thing I want my students to know is this: you are a natural learner. Every one of you was born wanting to learn, to understand everything about the world around you. I know, you particularly want to know what the adults around you think is important—but they must never replace your deeply felt curiosity and desire to learn whatever it is you are drawn to learn. The best teachers know this. The smartest teachers would never think they know what you must learn—because the best teachers know it is your job to discover that! Learn by discovery.
Did anyone ever have to force you to learn about computers, or to walk and talk, for that matter? If you realize that reading and writing and algebra are important in the world or needed in your life, I’m sure nothing will stop you from learning them. That’s not up to your parents or teachers.
And there are so many equally important things you can learn, such as responsibility, compassion, and solving real life problems—our school talks about them every week, and it is why we form Core Values Portfolio (CVP) advisories every week. (That’s why CVPs are becoming our most important classes, though they are hard to teach really well, in the Socratic way.)
So in general, the job of teachers and parents is just to try to keep up with you and your fellow students, and to help you along the way if you get stuck. Sure, we create curriculum. And almost every study shows that if this approach is taken, kids learn faster, sometimes much faster. And of course, it might help you get to college and do better there—but there are no rules. You are a born learner. People with no grades get into Harvard every single year.
It is extremely important to all of us at Grauer that you know, like in the days before the public school system, you can still pick and choose from things that you want to learn and that school offers; but you are in no way obliged to do anything a teacher tells you to do. When it comes down to it, you don’t “need” to do anything at all for school! Your teachers can help, but if you are not intrinsically motivated and don’t know why you want to be in a class, we are pretty useless, maybe even harmful! Some classes in School do not have that much practical value and they don’t have to; they are ways of developing your mind and body in general—but that’s on you.
So, students, don’t worry about schooling at home during a pandemic or any other time! In all likelihood you will come out of this pandemic with a strikingly clearer sense of what learning is and what you can accomplish on your own. Once you have this sense, you’ll know better how useful your teachers can be.
* Letter inspired by Jerry Mintz, Alternative Education Resource Organization.
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