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Heather Siple-First Day-MS-Sami-Lydia-Will

As summer comes to an end, I have been thinking about the fun I’ve had with friends and family. One thing I was reminded throughout the summer is that even as adults, we all come with our preferences, struggles and abilities.

A friend who visited for a few days this summer did some “odd jobs” at our house, jobs that we may have had to hire someone to do if not for this visit. He loves being busy and is able to figure out how things work even if they are new to him. By the time he left, we had checked several jobs off of our list. While traveling with family, one member relied on another to determine the inner workings of a schedule and map. It was too frustrating to untangle for one and easily done by the other. And yet another family member said that writing is too hard, and he always asks someone to write for him if it’s an important communication. He is well-spoken and has a professional job. He just can’t write well and finds it incredibly frustrating.

How many times do we state that the purpose of school is to create well-rounded students? Enrollment in certain classes is required of all of us as we move through the educational system. It is only by participating in all of those requirements that we can finally choose from a predetermined list of classes that just might suit our interests and abilities. Often this doesn’t happen until we are in high school or college. There is a misconception that we must all pass through certain gates in order to learn what we may actually choose to learn. Instead, what if we turned that thinking on its head and allowed students to pursue their interests, use their abilities to the fullest, and challenge them in their thinking and their choices while also perhaps introducing concepts and skills that are on the required skill list? Might that not work better? Wouldn’t I have a vested interest in trying to learn something that is hard or of little interest to me if I needed that information or skill to do something that I thoroughly enjoyed or learn something I wanted to know more about?

When will we, the educational system, learn from the students who are letting us know that they are eager to learn? They yearn for information. They don’t want to settle and they won’t stop learning; they will keep searching for more. They simply want information presented in ways that make sense for them; they want the ability to pursue their interests to the fullest and see where they lead. We must encourage learning of any and all types, rather than erect obstacles that create discouragement and inadequacy. As we begin another school year, I wonder how much closer we can come to that goal?