So often when we talk about schools, students, parents and teachers, we discuss things in arm-lengths type of way. We discuss how they need to have richer and more meaningful learning experiences, how we need to provide them with the opportunities to use the technological tools in authentic learning experiences. What we don’t discuss is how schools need to be places of living not just of learning. They need to be places of community where children can experience life-lessons not just academic lessons. The story that follows is about one such event that took place at our school this past year.
Tyler came to see me after basketball practice. I coach girls basketball so he had to wait until after I was done to see me. This isn’t necessarily unusual as I often have students come to see me after school, some because they want to work, some need help and some just want to be able to stay at the school for awhile longer. On this occasion, Tyler wanted to talk. He had this idea that he wanted to put on a Coffee House to raise money for Cancer. As he explained to me, he just really felt he needed to do this. His grandfather had passed away earlier in the year from cancer and he wanted to do something. He had been involved in other Coffee Houses, he played the guitar and thought it would be a great idea. We discussed times and dates. Another teacher who happens to play in a band was willing to help Tyler with setting up. A date and time was picked and the school was booked. Tyler was excited about the event which showed in his eagerness to get started on preparing. On December 8th, our school hosted the Coffee House where over $1300.00 was raised for Cancer Research.
The Rest of the Story
The story is a bit more than just the Coffee House. It’s a story about life. Tyler spent the next few weeks after our initial meeting working on the event. He put up posters around the school. He put out jars to collect money and advertise at various businesses around the town. He put up a sign-up sheet at school and began to spread the news that this was taking place. He spent a few days after school practicing, as did a number of the other students who were going to be taking part in the event. He promoted and had his friends promote. He arranged for a local band to take part.
The evening of the event, there were about 80 people in the school foyer ready to watch the different performers. In attendance was Tyler’s family, including his grandmother. This is where the real story starts. As Tyler got up and welcomed everyone, he explained that his reason for doing this was because he really needed to help others. He described how much it hurt when his grandfather had passed away, how the pain had been so great and he had hurt so much and he wanted to help others because it hurt so much. He explained that his grandparents would have been married 50 years this summer and his first song was dedicated to them as he had been practicing to play it at their anniversary. Beautiful. Powerful. Here was an 18 year old young man doing what many other adults could never do, would never do. Then, with each performer that took the stage, there was a story. One had lost a sibling, another had lost a parent and a third had recently lost a sibling. They sang and danced in remembrance. The band, which one of the staff plays in, took the stage. One of the members had recently lost their spouse. It was an incredible evening. It all happened because one young man wanted to give – give to others because of the hurt he felt. Throughout the evening, people laughed and people cried. They applauded the efforts of the performers, enjoyed coffee and dainties and shared in conversation. All because one young man wanted to give.
Schools Are Real Life
Too often I hear the phrase “Well, when they leave school and experience real life…..” In fact, school is real life. To try to explain that to anyone who isn’t in a school is difficult. Schools reflect, to some degree, the society of which they are a part. Some of the resistance to change is, in fact, a resistance of society to the changes taking place. Schools are more than just places of learning, they are places of living which are changing and evolving. For so long schools have tried to keep the changes taking place in the society from disturbing what was going on within their walls. This is no longer acceptable – our schools need to be living and growing, adapting and changing. But it’s more than just technology – it’s about all aspects of life. Too often when people discuss school reform, they focus on technology and learning but it’s so much more – it’s about life long learning. You can’t stop the rain from falling but you can use it to power your ideas and grow your dreams if you quit complaining about it falling
Tyler ended the open mic portion of the Coffee House with a classic Tom Petty song – Free Falling.
Schools are real life – real life for our children. Things may not be where we expect them to be but then again, when does life ever go according to someone’s schedule or plan. Let’s not diminish what does take place through focusing on one narrow aspect like technology. Life is so much bigger.