When I was a young child, somewhere between 2nd-4th grade I was considered a “Title I” student. For those who don’t know what that means, that is when the student needs a little extra help from a teacher with their school studies because they just aren’t where they “should be” in relation to the rest of the class. I was brilliant at math, also brilliant at computers. I could read just fine. But I didn’t have a memory like your “average” student. And because of this I was stuck with a label of needing some extra help all the way through high school. I struggled to memorize spelling words. When I would read on my own in either a book for English class or Science I wouldn’t retain much. I would struggle with the pop quizzes and tests. I would study and study and still would struggle just to pass the class. Now you give me some numbers to process or a task relating to a computer and I would excel. I’m not sure my educators ever picked up on this.
When I got to college I struggled in the same areas. I had to take a class they labeled “Bone Head English” because my ACT score wasn’t where it “needed” to be. On my own, I figured out how I was able to learn best. Most of my classes were in Computers and Math. So, most of them were hands-on. I actually didn’t read a single book throughout college and passed with A’s and B’s and have a Masters in IT Management along with 7 other college degrees all in the IT field. My college was different from sitting at a desk, reading on your own, and watching a teacher write something on the board. For 12 years of my childhood education, I was branded with “something is wrong with me.” I thought, “I must be dumb,” because I always struggled with the classes and homework. I was never taught the concept that we all learn at different paces and we all learn differently until I became a life coach and learned to QUESTION EVERYTHING and my son started pre-k.
Pre-K. That is where I thought my son would get an introduction to school while learning how to function on a full time school schedule. It was just that until I talked to my son's teacher about kindergarten. I remember bringing up the subject of kindergarten and she asked me “if I thought he was ready.” My first thought to this question was, “You are the teacher, you should tell me if you think he is ready.” But as nicely as I could, I asked, “Well, what do you think?” She proceeded to tell me she had no idea where he was at, and that she would start paying better attention and get back to me.
So, two things threw a red flag for me here. First, my son's teacher is not sure if he is ready. He is already going to be labeled as a child who is not up to par with the rest of his classmates and second, there are only 13 students in his class with 2 teachers in that room and he is already getting lost in the crowd of students.
This is where we insert The Innovation School.
I heard of the school and immediately loved the concept of “Hands on Learning.” Learning by doing. WOW, what an amazing philosophy in itself. Something I never got to experience because society's way of learning was reading a book and listening to someone teach. I was never DOING in school to learn. Not until I reached college anyway. I had to learn this on my own after having already completed 13 years of school as a child.
I also saw that school puts a big emphasis on Mindfulness. Taking time to pause, journal, meditation and yoga. Taking time to go outside and walk multiple times a day. Now as a life coach, this is all right up my alley. I know the importance of pausing from the craziness of the world and taking some time for self care, and the impact that it can make not only for ourselves but for the world... the impact that it also has on our learning.
I also learned that they take into account each child’s personality. They figure out each child’s strengths and challenges. They then work collectively as an entire school to accomplish a task. Whether it be the 1st graders learning to read and reading to the Kindergarten or Pre-K. Or the older students presenting a project to the younger students. Everyone is working together to learn. There is no such thing as someone is behind or someone is better than another. It’s the idea that every child is unique in their own way and we all are here to help one another to accomplish a bigger mission in this world.
I immediately scheduled a meeting with Maggie and knew I needed to be a part of the school. I remember sitting in the meeting begging Maggie to add us to the list, which was already a wait list. I made sure we made multiple appearances over that year before kindergarten started so she would remember that we were extremely interested in attending the following year. I just knew this is what we needed.
We were happy when we received the notification that we could enroll. Sebastian has been with the school for the last 2 years and he has never once complained to me that he wasn’t smart enough, or he needs extra help because he doesn’t understand. Every day he comes home eager to go to school the next day and learn more. He is receiving the education that I wish was available to me when I was in school and the education that I wish every other school and organization could understand. We don’t all learn from reading a book or watching a video. Thank you to Maggie and the entire staff at The Innovation School for opening the world to more opportunities and possibilities. We will be forever grateful!!
Recently, I have been working on my passion project at school. “Passion projects” are something we do here at The Innovation School, that give the students a chance to work independently. It is a personal project that each student can choose and explore themselves. I chose to study writing and journalism, and I am also writing the school play this year. I have been setting up interviews with local writers and journalists to learn more about the creative process, and I write as much of the play that I can each day.
I just had my first interview last week, and learned so much about the writer’s experience and discovered so many things that I can add to my own life in writing. The important thing to know as an aspiring writer is that the opportunities are endless. I am learning that if I feel like I should do something, and I am deeply passionate about it, then the best way to overcome the stress and anxiety of thinking that I can’t do it, or that I won’t have the capacity to really put my voice and personality into the project is to just jump into it and ignore the fear of not getting it right, or making a mistake.
Writing is a beautiful thing, because you take something that you believe in, or something that you think should be said and you express it through words. You can hide it in the paragraphs, and let people try to figure out what it is that you’re trying to say - as many talented authors do - or you can make it known to your readers, and be straightforward with it. Both of these options are applicable, and can be used together in a story to make it interesting.
One of the many things that I appreciate about The Innovation School are the teachers; I am inspired by them every day. My teacher has shown me that I can go after big potential opportunities. She is the type of person who impacts peoples’ lives, and gives them confidence. All of the teachers have wonderful stories to tell, and whether they know it or not, this in itself is inspirational to me. The woman who started this school made a brilliant decision, and being here is an amazing experience.
Every time we start a new block at school, our teachers give us new options to read for the book club. This block, I chose to read a book called “Hidden Figures,” which is about four African American women who work at NASA throughout the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The storyline seems very interesting, so I think that it will be a good read. I have enjoyed reading and writing for a long time now, and firmly believe that the reason I can write well is because I have a passion for reading too.
This is one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson. It is titled, “There Is No Frigate Like a Book,” and I think it really portrays the beauty of reading:
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.
The first time I read that, I remember thinking “Wow, I can’t believe that this woman can put this feeling into words!” These are the kinds of things that really inspire me to get better at writing, so that I can be able to express my feelings with words like Emily Dickinson and so many others like her. Without the world of words, there would be no writers. And without those talented authors who write the books we read, how would aspiring writers find inspiration? Everyone can be inspired by the world around them, but the people that we meet, and the authors we read about are vastly important as well.
I love J.D. Salinger’s works, and I think that he did an astounding job at writing Franny and Zooey and The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger could put meaning into the smallest of sentences, and leave the reader staring at the page thinking for a while. I just recently read Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, and I think that he was also an amazing author who was capable of writing about things that we as humans often ignore and don’t acknowledge as much as we should. These are the kinds of writers that we need more of in this day and age. Steinbeck wrote beautifully and acknowledged the hard things. I finished Of Mice and Men and felt changed by the sadness of the heartbreaking ending. To Kill a Mockingbird was also one of those books that left a lingering feeling of satisfaction after I read the final sentence, which was dedicated to the wise Atticus’s love for his children. I have been inspired by reading, and listening to writers talk about their experiences. I think that for anyone who wants to be a writer and is passionate about the craft, reading books abundantly is the first step to pursuing it.
I have lived in a world of literature and writing for what feels like quite a long time now, and I have found that it is the best place to go when reality becomes too much to handle. And as we all know, life has been pretty crazy over the past couple of years filled with Covid-19, along with life’s usual ups and downs. Everyone misses what it was like before wearing face masks and applying great quantities of hand sanitizer. I will always find refuge in the world of literature and words. In fact, one could argue that it is wider and far more colossal than a simple world. From this point on, I will refer to it as a universe; a vast, beautiful, intricate universe compiled with words and sentences. From my point of view, the universe of words is a beautiful place to be.
Painting on the first day of school with 4-6 year olds. Been there. Given each student an entire can of shaving cream to play with? Done that. A sandbox inside the classroom? We’ll do it again!
With my first year as a PreK/K teacher at The Innovation School behind me, I can comfortably share my biggest hurdle in the beginning: messes are okay. I ran myself ragged at the start of the year picking up abandoned toys, sorting all the crayons by color, scrubbing every last paint splatter and peeling oranges for kids so nothing ended up on the floor. I was constantly worried about what someone would think if they walked into our space and it wasn’t tidy.
As time went on, I started to see the importance of kids being able to leave something and come back to it. Why spend valuable play time cleaning up before snack if we’re still playing after? And if toys keep magically putting themselves away, how will a child ever experience the monotony of picking up a tub of spilled Legos?
Our school places value on letting our students (even the youngest) explore their surroundings, experiment with materials, make art whenever they want and learning to do things independently. I now see all those little messes as concrete evidence of learning!