The School Bell- What comes to mind when you hear that bell?
Mixed feelings come to mind as I contemplate the school bell. When it rings loud and clear as it did in my classroom days, it signals different things: That school is finally out, perhaps, or that feeling that you are “saved by the bell”. It can also signal “times up” for a pleasurable activity such as recess, a halt to the competitive kickball game, a conversation-stopper with the “bff”, or that you are fretfully late for class again. For me, it additionally brings the satisfactory feeling of the end of a workday, as I worked as a classroom teacher for over a decade. This is the way the school bell works for many.
But today, there are options to schooling, options that might be worth exploring. Homeschooling is one of those choices, with well over 1 million students in the United States and abroad, and counting. And no longer is it associated solely with the “fringe” of society. It has become part of mainstream education, with parents homeschooling their offspring for a wide variety of reasons. For many, it is the right choice, and thus “Another way to ring the school bell.”
I have no doubt that for my own personal experience, a different instructional model would have made an enormous difference in my own feelings about school. But the options were not out there as they are today. Without getting into too much detail, a chronological summary of my k-12 school experience follows: The primary years were characterized by excitement, possibility, friendship, wonder, awe, outgoing behaviors, challenging activities, and high self-esteem. By the middle years, school was diminished to days filled with distractions, meaningless busy work, self-consciousness, conformity, boredom beyond belief, anxiety, peer pressure, and disengagement. Finally, for shy, sad little me, high school became a dreaded place I would go to every day. Self-worth was at an all-time low during these years. My days were filled with extreme boredom, negative peer pressure, desire to conform, tears, and overall depression. Of course, there were those rays of sunshine, like my optimistic 8th grade professor, my high school history professor who would serenade us with his guitar, and my down-to-earth algebra professor Fr. Newman. Otherwise, the schools, which were a combination of private and public, successfully “stamped out” most of my natural, initial joy of learning. No worries, I recovered the joy of learning in college and eventually became a classroom teacher myself, ready to make a difference, first in the classroom, and then later as a homeschooling parent! Along the way I discovered that just as there are different creative ways to solve the same problem, there are thankfully different ways to accomplish the same educational goals.
A question here: Should kids be quite so insanely happy when the bell rings and school is out, with the ensuing mad dash for the door? Actually, I take that back part-ways at least. My kids are quite happy when the list of assignments and chores is done, as am I. Repeatedly in homeschooling, however, there are occasions where my homeschool ducklings may not even realize they are “doing school”, days of discovery and joy in learning, that extend well beyond the normal school hours. I am especially speaking of the opportunities that a traditional school probably would not be able to offer, such as the weekly field trip with built-in hands-on experiences, enrichment classes as part of the school day, and other curiousity-building activities that make the world a more exciting place to learn about.
Learning should be celebrated at every stage and enthusiasm should not diminish over time as it did for me. Consequently, I sought to bring back the joy of learning to my students, first as a classroom teacher, and then later in the homeschooling arena. Yes, there are gifted magnet schools, I know, and affluent and great neighborhood schools. Unfortunately, growing up I attended schools where I felt unchallenged despite getting very decent grades. I remember counting the minutes and hours before school was out, and counting down the days until the weekend week after week, year after year, wishing to be anywhere else than the four-walled classroom. Contrary to my present life, time was moving, oh so slow. I just wanted to fast-forward time, but there was no “remote” for that! Of course, I admit this is not everyone’s experience with academics. But it is a tragedy repeated for many a young scholar. Thus, one of my motivators for ditching the traditional classroom with my own family, was so they could have a more positive experience with learning.
What comes to mind when you hear that school bell?
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** Note to the Reader- Today’s narrative is an excerpt of our family’s school journey from a few years ago, during my eldest daughter’s senior year in high school, a rather emotional year, with its many ups and downs.
May God shower blessings on your family as he has on mine. Annette