Sometimes, a JRNEY into global education can begin by making a conscious decision of where to teach. I am proud to call Tania my friend and colleague. She is one of the good ones who believes if it's good for kids it's good for the classroom. I'm so happy she didn't become a lawyer and instead moved her talents to education. Here's her story...
I was one of those people who said they would NEVER be a teacher…never, ever, ever! I always thought school was boring and was more attracted to its social aspect than learning. Only in one class I always thrived…English. I had the best High School English teacher; she was creative, passionate, and loved a good discussion. That experience propelled me to complete a major in English Literature. I even decided I was going to be a lawyer but never, ever a teacher.
As it happens, life intervenes, and I found myself at home several years later with two beautiful little girls. I read to them all the time, and one day, my three- year- old asked me to teach her how to read - me, the person who said she was never, ever going to be a teacher. I panicked. My experience with education had taught me that learning was stale and boring, reading from a textbook, and all the other stifling things I experienced at school. So, I began to visit pre-schools, and I learned something valuable - they don’t usually teach three- year- olds to read! They teach colors, counting, and the alphabet but not to read.
As I looked around classroom after pre-school classroom, they all looked the same after a while, and I realized that I wanted more for my child. She knew her colors, her letters, and her ABC’s; she also loved to play pretend, sing, play the piano, mix playdough colors to make new ones, watercolors, and finger paint. I was not ready to place her in a cookie- cutter classroom. She knew everything she “needed” to know at her age and wanted more; she had something at age three that I did not get until I was 16…she LOVED to learn!
I realized I could provide a well-rounded education by teaching my girls at home: academics, arts, discovery, and experimentation all in one long and exhausting day. My child loved to learn and she was thriving. What was even more shocking was that I was her teacher! Not just her teacher but a good teacher, one who realized that education is more than the basics and academics, it's teaching the child as a whole: character education, arts, inquiry, and more importantly leadership. Yes, there were times that we “had” to focus on certain things to achieve her goal of learning to read (by the way, yes - she started to read before she was four), but more often than not, she was leading the experience and we were loving it.
Children are naturally curious; given the opportunity they will lead the way with a teacher (or in my case, parent) as their facilitator, their guide in their journey. And the rewards are numerous for both child and teacher. As she grew and things became more “formal” we did use a more structured curriculum and made sure we were targeting the learning goals we needed to, but we approached her getting older the way we approached everything else: where do we need to go and what is the most interesting way to get there? We tied in music and arts to what we were doing and provided hands on experiences for her as much as we could, she was an active participant in her education.
When it was time for me to go to work, the decision to teach was an easy one. And choosing which schools to put my girls in also became the decision of where to work. I wanted a place that viewed education as I did; a fascinating journey where they seek to educate the WHOLE child and guide through inquiry, pause where needed (if only for a bit), and make the students part of the process, not sentient recipients. I found it in an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme or IB PYP school; it was exactly what I wanted for my girls and exactly the way I wanted to teach.
As I have grown professionally and my daughters have moved out of the PYP, they have become more and more a part of the sentient recipient culture of the education process rather than active participants. I have made it a personal mission to fight against the norm and the sterilized, cookie- cutter education that has a way of seeping into even the most well-meaning programs. I am teaching my girls to fight the urge to conform, and I teach my students to question everything. We never stop learning, we never stop growing, and as we evolve so should the quality of our education.
By Tania Galiñanes
Tania graduated in 2010 with a Bachelors in English Lit. and a Masters Degree in Education in 2013. She is married to her best friend for almost 25 years, mother of 2 wonderful teens, and passionate about literacy. A teacher since 2010, she has "the best job in the world" as the Media Specialist at the Osceola School for the Arts in Kissimmee, FL. Connect with Tania on Twitter @Sparkdlibrarian