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Everyone wants to be on top of their game, no matter what the game is – soccer, math, work, relationships, etc. There is nothing like feeling you’re in control – you’ve got it. We tend to be more generous, offering to help others and imparting our wisdom when we feel we’re on top. Most of us have been on this earth long enough to know that we can’t be at the top of our game in every situation, though that doesn’t stop us from wanting to be. 

In schools, students are urged to be at the top of every single game. School is a child’s introduction to formalized education and, ironically, one of the most unrealistic places for that learning to occur. Is it reasonable to expect every child to meet or exceed each goal of a standardized curriculum? Is it reasonable or possible to expect every child to understand and learn everything in sync with everyone else who happens to be the same age? Is it possible that children learn differently and at their own pace? Is it possible that the quick math mind will have a struggle at some point in their school career? Is it possible that school does not allow our children to grow in confidence, understanding and broadening their knowledge? 

I spend all of my days in school. I watch children approach work gleefully, carefully and with slick avoidance tactics. School is so much more than the formalized lessons that make up most of a child’s school day. It is a place for children to grow into themselves… to learn, explore and experiment with all kinds of learning. Studies have shown that the things that are remembered from school are often related to extracurricular activities, not the hours of lessons, reading or homework that was done. Yes, students learn the basics, but the substance of their learning happens outside of those formal lessons. 

Does your school have enough of the “real” learning opportunities in place? Are students able to make choices, direct their own learning and try new things? Or are they confined by the constraints imposed upon them by what we “know best” in an effort to push them to be at the top of our game – and not theirs?