DON’T LET SCHOOL GET IN THE WAY OF EDUCATION

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At the start of every semester in college, I trudged to the bookstore to purchase all of my books for the semester. This was in an era when most students didn’t buy books online, and bookstores had a virtual monopoly on how much they could charge for a book because they were the only store within a 200 mile radius that sold “Pearson’s Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry, 112th edition.” Sure, you might be able to find the 111th edition from someone who lived down the hall, but you weren’t allowed to have that in class.

So every year, I spent hundreds of dollars on books that I didn’t even want. This frustrated me, so I made a new policy: each semester, I was going to buy at least one book that I wanted to buy. My first book I bought was “Until we have faces” by C.S. Lewis, and it was by far the best book I read for the entire semester. This continued to be true for every semester: the little book that I wanted to purchase was always more informative and had a greater educational impact than every other “mandatory” book that I bought. I find it ironic that I would spend hundreds of dollars each semester on books for school, and yet the little $10-15 book was always more influential in the long run than the other books that I purchased. But the separation between what I did in school versus what actually proved useful did not stop with just the books that I bought. This separation showed up everywhere.

The best teacher I ever had wasn’t even a teacher. He was my boxing coach.

The best class I ever took wasn’t even a class. It was a summer field experience in the backwoods of Wisconsin where we ran around for 10 weeks both learning about the ecology of the area and conducting our own personal research projects.

My best physics teacher didn’t teach me much about physics, but he taught me a lot about curiosity.

My favorite place to study was the library because I could go to a desk on the 13th floor that pointed west and allowed me to see the best sunsets that Indiana had to offer.

My favorite homework assignment wasn’t done at home: it was when I had to go to the roof of a building on campus and observe the stars for my astrophysics class.

Years after graduating from college, a wise old man told me, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” And all of a sudden it hit me: I was so glad I skipped out on some of the “important” things my teachers expected of me and instead opted for experiences that would change me. I was so glad that I didn’t let “school” get in the way of my education. Sure, we all should study and do what our teachers tell us (usually). But students should never miss the opportunities that are lying in front of them to expand their horizons and learn about their world, and teachers should create these opportunities whenever they can and as often as they can.

Teachers love homework, structure, activities, and projects. We love to assign, critique, build, and mold. We test, retest, demand, and push. But sometimes, it may be helpful to realize that we may be getting in the way of someone’s education. Our demands in the classroom may not be laying the foundations for growth of that particular student, and sometimes, the most important thing for a teacher to do may be to just get out of the way.