I remember the first day I stepped into a classroom as a primary teacher. It was my second internship in what we call 'groep 7' in the Netherlands. It is class 5 in most other places in the world. And it was a total shock for me to see that all the children were doing the same thing at the same time. This did not make any sense to me!
Until that moment I had no idea that my own primary school had been somewhat progressive. Every child had their own program and was met at their own level. My teacher (who taught three grades at the same time) constantly went between little groups of children to give instructions and we graded our own work.
You would think this was a special school, but it was not. I grew up in the Dutch countryside in a village with just a little over 600 people. We had no more then 60 children at our school. My teacher had taken his inspiration from a, educational view that is called Dalton Plan. As this had been the only experience of primary school I had ever had, I thought all schools were like that.
But as I continued my internships in different schools, I found out that my little school had been out of the ordinary. My teacher was actually progressive and he had brought his views into reality. And if he could do it, I could too. Because I didn't see any way that having every child do the same thing made any sense.
But then I started my first real job as a teacher. And all the kids had to do the same thing at the same time. It was frustrating to teach children things they do not understand at all, because they hadn't grasped what had come before. It's like building a house on quicksand, the foundations are missing. I tried to spend extra time with some kids trying to add to those foundations, but at the same time the regular classes continued.
I remember having a conversation with a colleague about how frustrating it is to give a child a test, just because the books and year planner tell me I have to, while I already know this child will fail. And that it would make so much more sense to work on a subject with them until they themselves felt ready for a test. This colleague just flat out told me I was too idealistic.
But that never stopped me. I kept on dreaming about new forms of education. The next year I went to teaching kindergarten, because there I did have the freedom to meet every child where they were in their development. I was introduced to a new Dutch educational philosophy called 'Natural Learning' and my own school was implementing elements of it. But elements wasn't enough for me.
Later, when I lived in Amsterdam, I went to teach at a real 'Natural Learning' school. But they had just been in some trouble with the government, so most of it was reduced back to just plain old-fashioned teaching. It was however great to work with portfolio's instead of rapport cards. I also applied for a job at a Sociocratic school and that was totally eye-opening. I got the job, but had to turn it down as they didn't get government funding and couldn't pay me enough to sustain my daily life. This is still one of my regrets....
After ten years of teaching, I couldn't do it any more. The awesome school I was working at was now completely and totally focused on independent test-results. I think the government had named it: result-driven education.......and it was not for me. If anything it was worse then what I had started out with when I first started teaching. I felt defeated, tired, terribly sad and I had no energy left to fight the good fight anymore. I felt like a total looser and all the time I had spent trying to make education better had been a total waste of time. So I decided to quite.....
But then I moved to Perth and met Adam Jorlen, who told me about this idea he had for a 'School for Changemakers'. And I knew instantly that this was the kind of project I had been waiting for. I had spent my time trying to fight a very broken system from the inside and it had left me burnt out and disillusioned. While all of us with big ideas are better off spending our time and energy building the new.
And that's exactly why we need a place like enkel U, a place where we can dream and envision the world we want to live in and build towards this new reality. Even be this new reality in the way that we will be together, as a community.
If this is something you long for as much as we do, join us. We are waiting for you.
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