I’d been wondering why I was seeing all these education-themed articles lately: Mobilize.org has an interesting campaign going on right now to encourage young adults to finish their college degrees; GOOD (the website) has had some education dialogue that’s been catching my eye lately; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been quite vocal on the White House Blog about his ambitions for America’s schools. And then I remembered–“Oh yeah! It’s back-to-school season.”
The start of the school year was always bittersweet for me. I was sad and nostalgic about leaving this great exploratory existence I’d developed in the summertime, but excited to show that newly developed self to the world of classmates…new clothes and all.
When I see children waiting at the bus stop in the mornings with their school uniforms on after they’ve spent the past few months running around, playing summer sports in the parks, learning to flirt, learning themselves, and just being free, I feel proud of their discipline…but I also cringe a little.
I wish school didn’t have to be so stop-and-go, so turn-on and turn-off. I always wanted to bring my summer personality to my school personality. And I had a little trouble with that.
In the summers we spent lots of time with relatives. I grew up in Illinois. Most of my family lived in Kentucky, so we would take frequent trips there during the summer. Why was it so hard coming back to school after spending time in Kentucky?
<—–I think this girl had a lot to do with it.
Hanging with her was class in itself. This is my cousin, Onairelav…aka Lovie. We played games. She coordinated all of her younger cousins into a group called Camp Cousins, which we adored. She taught us about saving the environment way before going green was the “in” thing. And we ate it up.
We used our imaginations! When one of our cousins was a little down and out, she used the Paint feature (you remember Paint, right?) on her computer to throw us a mini-disco party—by turning off the lights and turning the screen different colors (before there were screensavers!). We used to sit and listen to music, draw or write poetry. I got some of my best ideas while sitting there.
I felt the most myself. I felt empowered to go back to school and give it my all. Speak my mind. Tell others what I had learned, what we had discussed. It was all about youth and empowerment.
And, I still believe in that. She made me a believer.
She helped me bridge that summer personality with that school personality.
She helped me see myself in my education.
She helped me see how education can empower us and how we can empower education. The give and take with the student at the center. She lit a fire under me.