The Friday we arrived in Montauk, the weather was disappointing. It wasn't raining, but everything was foggy and gray. Since we had a couple of hours before our dinner reservation, we decided to go for a walk on the beach. I wasn't about to let the weather keep me from the ocean! And I'm so glad I didn't.
As we walked, the fog seemed to become thicker and thicker. There were waves crashing against the shore, but there was no ocean or horizon. The fog was circling us from about 20 feet away. It was the closest I ever came to walking on a cloud.
I found myself wondering if I had died and gone to heaven. It would be so fitting that my version of it would be on the beach. It's always been my favorite place.
I can't even put into words what it really felt like to walk along, without being able to see what was right in front of me. The crashing of the waves made the experience even more surreal. But it was what we stumbled upon next that really got me thinking.
The soft sand had suddenly become covered with all kinds of rocks. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were half in the water, half out. Many were just strewn across that particular stretch of the beach. I didn't look at them that closely until we returned the next day (I'll show you some photos later in the post), but at the moment they suddenly appeared, as if out of nowhere, all these thoughts started rushing into my head. And that wasn't supposed to happen this weekend. Not on a weekend away.
I guess it comes with being a writer. The wheels of the mind often move faster than the feet, the fingers, or any given source of transportation.
Anyway, I couldn't decide what was more beautiful - the moment we saw the rocks, or the rocks themselves. I turned to my husband and said, "The problem with education is that we're treating children as if they're all exactly the same, and they're not."
Those who have been trying to reform education, some deep inside the system and some who have never even ventured into a classroom at all, have lost sight of the children. Somehow, while in the midst of dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's," the overall meaning of it all has become lost in the fog. It's like they're all reading music notes, but aren't playing from the heart.
The next day, we took the very same walk; but this time, the sunlight brought out the many shapes, sizes, and colors of those very same rocks. They also led into some stunning sandstone cliff-like formations, which only came into partial view the day before. Here are some photographs:
It would have been a perfect field trip to study erosion, weathering, and earth science in general, don't you think? If I were teaching this subject, I would definitely have brought in these photos, or at least found some on the internet. Anything teachers can do to pull the real world into education can truly transform it.
Back to my story. Two days, two completely different walks on the same beach. And so it occurred to me that no two days in any given classroom are exactly the same either. Children and teachers have different moods, personalities, hopes, dreams, passions, life experiences, beliefs, and abilities. And sometimes they each wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Don't we all?
Could any given child perform differently on the same test depending upon what day, or time of day, it is? Is it logical to place the entire burden on teachers when so many factors are way beyond their control?
Who ever decided that we must force children to progress at the same rate, or in the same way? It goes against the laws of nature. In a country which claims to embrace diversity and individuality, our educational system has promoted just the opposite. The "herd mentality" is alive and kicking. We're treating children as if they're all the same, as if we want to cover up the fact that they're not. We're also treating all teachers the same, when we should be looking out for their unique strengths, and helping them overcome any weaknesses. Let me say that loud and clear - we need to SUPPORT teachers, not FIRE them based upon questionable data. Otherwise, we're letting them down as much as we are the children.
We're all different, just like the rocks are. The sooner we face it, and work to embrace it, we can get out of this fog we seem to be living in.
I'll leave you with this perfectly shaped, smooth-to-the-touch rock I discovered that second day. It looked like an egg of some sort. I wanted so much to bring it home, but it was pretty heavy, and was too large to fit into my pocket.
And then I thought, the rock belongs here, with all of the other rocks. Most of them have jagged edges and are rough to the touch, but that's okay. We can find so much beauty in their differences, if we'd only stop to take a closer look.
Please note that related posts will get more specific as time goes on. If you have a strong opinion about this topic, please feel free to leave a comment below. Any and all thoughts and ideas are always welcome here, even if you completely disagree with me!