Unlike a majority of teenagers in high school, I didn’t grow up with school dances. I never had a prom, a cafeteria, or a class president. Rather, television was banned during the week. Classical music was allowed but not rock, pop, or R&B. Nail polish, hair dye, and casual clothing were prohibited. I wore mary janes and a skirt or slacks.
We sat in the school of less than 20 children. We arrived around 7:30 a.m. In the morning we wrote devotionals, listened to music, and learned a sentence in a new language for the week. We recited Pater Naster, the Lord’s Prayer, in Latin every morning. Sometimes, my rather eccentric teachers would get up and dance with the children. As a teenager, I did not like this school. At least, not at first.
While I didn’t agree with the guidelines of the school nor the religious teachings, I would never take back my private school education. Before attending private school, I received straight D’s and F’s. I had the worst report cards, I should think. These private school teachers had a valuable gift that many teachers in today’s society lacked. They could teach however they wanted. And believe me, they did.
One on one teaching and tutoring overtime was no question. It was available at any request and even a phone call late over a few math problems in the night was acceptable. The concern of the school was never to have you graduate as quickly as possible but it was to get you to learn and learn to love learning. Instead of handing out assignments from a curriculum that may had been too advanced for most of us to understand, we were handed books below our grade level and expected to work our way up from bottom to top. While many parents found this insulting and degrading to the children’s self esteem I believe most of us who were students were more confident in our work.
Having teacher’s that embraced creativity, unique personalities, and learning styles not all of us were bound to four page essays. Each student was requested to take a test on learning styles so that the teachers would be able to teach us according to each style. Myself, at the time being more of a visual and tactile learner, I was not only allowed but encouraged to turn in my essays as stick figure comic strips.
My writing, next to my technical skills, was still greatly encouraged throughout my entire education in many private schools. For each school, the teachers somehow managed to introduce me personally to a few authors and newspaper journalists. How they did such a thing, I’ll never know but I’ll never forget it. At the time I was inspired to be a fashion designer. In knowing this, the teachers sat down with me and suggested I design a school uniform. And behold, there came the mary jane shoes. It was this fascinating creative thinking that inspired me to love knowledge far beyond my high school years. I may not be religious but I still love learning. My mind is constantly buzzing and asking questions. I’m always learning or teaching something new. People call me eccentric but I don’t care too much. My teachers, in all their unconventional ways, gave me a great thirst for knowledge.
I say this, because I wish all schooling was just the same. It wasn’t just history, science, Latin, or math. They gave me education and understanding in all walks of life. They inspired me to write novels and tell stories years after my school years have passed. I know now that knowledge is never simply long drawn out paragraphs of nonsense written in black in white, but learning is an experience. It shouldn’t be just taught but allowed to be expressed in whatever creative, unique form. Even if it’s George Washington chopping down a tree as a stick figure in a badly drawn comic book.
I will never stop learning. I’ll always love learning. I’m so grateful that with that kind of understanding I can give my kids the same. And for that, I will always cherish my years in a private school taught in a little mobile home in the country.