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All Together, Separately

Updated: May 7

Most people aren't surprised when I say I loved going to school as a kid. After all, I've made my career out of school with three degrees and over 25 years of experience as an educator. But I didn't love school for the reasons most people think. I didn't love school because I was smart or because I got good grades. I loved school because it provided me with the safety, consistency, and acceptance I didn't get at home.

I loved the consistent rules and schedule the school provided. Reading at this time, math next, snack now, recess, science, and art. Then home. This structure helped me feel safe enough to learn and connect with my classmates and caring adults. The consistency created safety because there were no big surprises at school, and there was nothing I had to be "ready for" unlike home which was chaotic and unpredictable. I knew and understood the rules of school, and if I followed them I knew what the result would be and there's a safety in that which allowed me to flourish in school. I could be and was my best self at school and because of that, I felt accepted. And that acceptance further helped me thrive. You can see how and why I just kept going with schooling and education as a career.

Not everyone has a positive experience in school but we never really know why school works or doesn't until we dig into the roots- and understand how someone feels and shows up at school and why. As educators, we have little idea what students are experiencing at home but we need to be aware of home's impact on a child's school day. Luckily I had caring adults in school who knew that I sometimes needed longer naps (erratic sleep at home), I liked staying after school to help teachers (connection and less time at home) and I always needed a snack (because I was hungry).

School, in all its forms, is one thing we all share in common. You can ask any person you run into, where did you go to school? And everyone would have some answer and some feelings about their school experience. It is the details of school and how we experience schooling that shapes our view of school as adults, as parents, guardians, and teachers. And we carry that experience into our lives far beyond our last day of class.

I spent three years studying this very topic- how and why students stay in school using student photography. If you would like to read my dissertation here's the link.

For more listen to The School Whisperer podcast (here) and read about my school success coaching business here.

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