I have that sick anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach and I have no idea what I’m going to do to get out of this mess.
No one can help me, they don’t have time.
I can’t tell any of the people in charge because I’ll be in huge trouble.
My final Biology assignment is due but I haven’t completed it. Haven’t even started. And what’s more, I haven’t even been to any of the classes all term. Luckily no one has noticed, but they’re about to find out when I have nothing to hand in. My heart is pounding and I’m on the verge of tears, but I can’t even cry here, that will make things worse.
Luckily, I wake up to find it’s just a nightmare. Although I’ve had this one a few times now. But I’m safe in bed snuggled up next to my baby and it’s been 15 years since school. None of it is real.
Except that it is.
That exact scenario has never happened to me before. But those feelings of anxiety, stress, dread, failure, and hopelessness are all very real and memorable from my school days. The anxiety of being tested, compared, pushed and pressured happened regularly. Whenever it was exam time, whenever an assignment was due. Would I be able to prove myself? Was I good enough? What if I failed?
And no one thought it was odd that the majority of us experienced the same feelings. No one questioned it.
Well, I’m going to question it.
This is not learning, and it’s not ok. Learning should never be motivated by fear.
Now, with the privilege of being able to witness what real learning outside of school looks like, I see how vastly different it is.
Learning is joyful, passionate, free, self-motivated, never ending, playful, easy, and natural. Learning is often private and for individual purposes. Learning has no conditions or expectations imposed. Learning does not need to be tested.
How unfair that children are being robbed of experiencing learning in this way. Instead it is so often associated with stress, pressure, boredom, and restriction.
I would like to say that things are different now and that schooled children don’t experience the same amount of pressure, but by all accounts it seems to be even worse. And I wonder, when will we realise how much damage we are doing by corrupting the learning process in this way? By replacing intrinsic motivation with rewards and punishments. By replacing joy with work. By sending the message that learning is not important unless evaluated by someone in a position of power.
Our children’s mental health is suffering, and their love of learning is being squashed. When will enough be enough?
Testing is not necessary for learning. Actually, it’s a pretty efficient method for killing a love of learning. So why are we doing it? Because it benefits adults, not children. If it is necessary, it is only because no one is paying close enough attention to children to be able to see all the learning happening. Testing is an easier way to gather mass data, but my child is more than data.
What a gift to give our children an education full of freedom, with the ability to be in charge of their own minds.
What will you choose?