We thrive when we learn according to ourselves; we wither when we learn at the beck and call of others. We build community and sow trust when we protect others’ rights to learn as they are; we throttle community and reap mistrust when we insist that others learn as we do – or as we teach.
When we make with others we tacitly discover not only our own weirdnesses – and not only others’ weirdnesses – but also our ability to value ourselves and others for our weirdness and their weirdness.
Weirdness is a place we carry together, in idiosyncratic contrast and invitation to one another to appreciate, understand, and affirm how we learn and express ourselves. Appreciating and sharing weirdness is making stuff – including writing – with students. Appreciating and sharing weirdness is connected learning.
The most dangerous thing we do when we comply with the standardization of schools is to assume that we and our kids will survive it – that we can get through one more lesson. One more test. One more year. One more education. One more job. One more life.
We are not all of us one more life to get through. We are weird, until we are not. We can grow up to be ourselves, until we cannot. We can learn anything we want, until we learn to believe we cannot.
I don’t know what to do about failing schools. I don’t know how to argue someone who wants a standardized education for financial security and social mobility (even though that kind of education is not a guarantee of either anymore). I do know how to teach and learn as if what I want to learn will help me happily live the life I lead. I know that is a privileged stance, and I desperately want help in unpacking how it can become a universal one for all of us in all schools. If my privilege right now lets me make these wishes and do such work, then that is what my privilege should be for – for making it safe to be weird and alive and learning.