If I remember correctly, we met in the cafeteria probably over my usual, highly nutritional high school lunch of a soft pretzel and cheese. He was taller, lean, tousled mousy hair and had an irresistibly boyish grin, dimple and all. I quickly became quite smitten. He was always adorably shy when he talked to me, but he was also sweet and treated me very well. We somehow began dating (this was 15 years ago so the memory has unfortunately faded) and the more I knew of him, the more smitten I became.
We did not see each other often in school though. We were actually part of different worlds inside those hallways. I was an A/B student and he was in what they considered to be the “remedial” class. This was a class where the struggling students went, those who could not keep their grades up high enough to belong in a regular class. It also included the delinquents and since learning disorders were just becoming the new diagnosable trend during that time, the class also included those who were considered of bad behavior because they couldn’t sit still and often distracted the other students. This was the class that was considered of a lower level, the place the good students were afraid to end up.
The more I got to know Billy, the more I questioned how this wonderful, smart, loving, sweet boy could be in that class. Then one day he told me how much he hated school. It wasn’t interesting to him, he didn’t see the point in going and how he was always watching out the window, not wanting to sit in his chair all day. It was then, as early as the 10th grade, that I recognized that school wasn’t for everyone. This was an entirely new concept for me because we didn’t have many options besides public school at that time, so everyone was trained to get good grades to go to college to get a good job. Everyone had to fit that mold. I became angry. Angry at the system that this amazing boy was being put down and treated as a lower class because this type of learning environment didn’t suit his natural abilities. Angry because there was nothing I could do to change it.
I was fortunate to be born as a ‘book smart’ person. I didn’t need to do much to pass the tests and get good grades. I rarely studied. However, since that moment and on into my college and post-college years, I have continued to believe that the education system is seriously flawed, despite it working for my benefit. I learned information without long-term retention. I learn more now from documentaries and books than I ever learned from my classes. I understand how processes work now instead of just memorizing dates and theories. There is so much more I could have learned if we had better systems. Systems with variation and options for different types of learners like Billy. Systems with more creativity that do not breed us solely for the 9-5.
I always thought I was alone in my frustrations with the entire education system. Even at university level I think it’s a giant disappointment (that’s another topic for another day). Then, I found this TED talk and sighed with relief. Finally there is someone with enough power and pull to put the idea out there and make change happen. This talk is by Sir Ken Robinson. It is one of the most well known TED talks. He is entertaining and brilliant in his approach to how education should be done. It is worth the 18 minutes it takes to watch it.
In conclusion, I don’t know what became of Billy. I’d be curious to find out. I just hope that he found a career that utilized his intelligence and his talents far more than public school did for him. I am glad I dated him, not only because he was hot and showered me with affection, but because he (without knowing it) gave me my first look at my reality from a new and very different angle and it was the moment when I started to question everything in life.
So I ask you, what do you think needs to change in our education systems?