We went to do a ‘book signing’ the other day at an alternative school. The kids there don’t do well in ordinary schools and, in some cases, don’t do well at all anywhere. A friend of ours is a teacher there. We did not draw a big crowd. Maybe ten or so.
In fact, one kid had to be dragged in.
Ostensibly, I was there to talk about our book. But I first spoke about me not feeling ‘right’ in the cul de sac, feeling a bit trapped working urban, being a smidge restless for a bit of adventure and, while getting on in years, feeling those feelings even stronger. Some of the kids paid attention, most looked at the tops of their desks.
I spoke about not really needing the systems that society had to offer, at least not as much as I or most people thought we did. I spoke about being able to grow food, catch fish, build crap and conduct medical responses to my own physical problems most of the time. Of course, I admitted to living in the system most of my life and I gave credit to the ‘system’ when I used it.
I really just pointed out that I didn’t need or use the support systems as much as I used to. Nor did I want to. And I pointedly spoke a similar view about so-called education. I told them I learned better when I was interested and I was never interested while in school. All the kids were paying attention at that point. So were the teachers.
So was an ex-nurse.
I spoke about money, jobs, cost-of-living and the umbilicals of life that we don’t really notice if we are born and raised with them – such as telephones, TV, cable, cell phones, internet, roads, electricity grids, plumbing and sewage and the BIG networks of health, education, politics, employment and living that we are so enmeshed and invested in without really being aware. I spoke about the beauty of the forest and the feeling of being alive when outside even though I confessed to spending time writing my book and watching cheap B flicks at night. I guess I conveyed a sense of balance…I don’t know…I was just wingin’ it and talking about our book and our life.
Some of the teachers asked questions. One of the questions was about our dog. Sal went and brought Fiddich in. He has a presence. The classroom came alive.
I talked about rebelling, swimming against the current, taking risks, NOT planning, leaving the herd and all that ‘freedom’s-just-another-word-for-nothing-left-to-lose’ kind of stuff you might expect from a guy wingin’ it and the the kids themselves started asking questions.
On the face of it, I was a bad influence. Given another few minutes, I might have advocated dropping out of school and finding a carnival or tramp steamer to sign on with. The interesting part was that the teachers would likely have been the first to sign up!
Of course, it is easy to advocate taking alternative actions in an alternative school. Even if the teachers were NOT receptive (but they were), I could always hide behind the fact that it was, in fact, a place for alternative thinking and learning that was also in essence what the book was about. I could safely advocate risk without risking criticism or the bums rush. In effect, I was a poseur except for the fact that we had done it. I certainly had no alternatives to offer the kids (or the teachers). I could only tell our story.
But the result was that all but one of the kids got engaged. All of them asked questions (even the kid who was dragged in). All of them made eye contact and laughed at the stupid stuff (there was a lot of stupid stuff). And the teachers were surprised. The teachers were actually shocked to see the drag-in so engaged. The idea of Alternative was connecting with everyone, teachers, students, everyone. It was good.
We left and went to our car so that we could go shop at Costco. The kids went back to class. The ‘life’ moment had passed. Fleeting, like Boson-Higgs.
Thank you for taking on the myth that students are not interested in school or the contents of novels. I’ve dealt with many of school’s seemingly disengaged youth. With all their being students want to hear about compelling ideas. It was also useful for you to have had the icebreaking dog with you.
Do not know if you have read the book the “Dove” by Robin Graham who began his adventures at 15 years of age to sail alone around the world. I taught this book to a group of teenagers who claimed to have never read a book but they wanted to read the “Dove.” They would also have read your book if they had known about it. But most importantly if the folks who choose the books for English classes these days know about.
I agree. I have never met a person (old or young) who did not have SOME interest (some interests, perhaps, should not be pursued but they had them nevertheless). And kids are hungry for interests. The more DISinterested they seem, the hungrier they are. Sadly, our education system is hobbled by chains and cobwebs, thinking and creativity are stifled and what passes for education is ill-thought out – certainly NOT current-with-the-times. Having said that, I do think kids need the basics like reading and communicating and socializing. But Jobs and Gates and Musk and even Tesla got where they did driven by personal interest. Even Zuckerberg’s Facebook came about outside of the classroom but inside the school.
Some old woman at 103 said, “the thing that keeps you going is learning…”
Lived on our sailboat(s) for 11 years. Dove was one of the first of many sailing novels digested.
Watch Ken Robinson on Ted Talks for a superb collaboration of tour views. ( I think I meant ‘ corroboration’.)
By the way, I notice your/my computer are getting closer in sync. Except I’m on the other side of the world and we’re only one hour apart.
Bola Vinaca from Fiji.
I will watch it. In the meantime; “Seganaleqa, Marau”.
Sounds like that was a very special experience for all concerned!
Yeah, I found my audience; alienated youth. To be fair, the kids may be alienated or isolated but, honestly, I think more people should be. I am a promoter of withdrawal, strategic retreat, and running like hell for the hills. Seems my message of GET OUT! GET OUT NOW!! fell on receptive ears. I don’t know how special it was but it resonated.
It seems like the “get out now” resonated with the teachers as much as the students.
Sounds like it was fun for all.
Either way hopefully some of what you said tweaks a kid to try something different but constructive.
When ever I have kids ask me about my life I tell them I hated school and quit after the 12th grade.
BUT when I went back to post secondary education at the ripe old age of 40 I loved it!
But I always toss in the warning, ” Learning how to study, complete assignments and right snap tests aint too much fun at 40 while you’re working and paying bills!”
That usually gets their attention.