Okay let me just put this out there in the eve of independence.  Life is more than memorizing data to get the higher score.  Yet, why does education insist that scores – grades – make the grade for success? Worse yet, legions of teachers across the nation buy into the system that believes success is certainly determined by the best score, the best rank, the best nod of someone’s head that passes that mark that someone is looking for.  I associate such collaboration the number one reason why we have so many teachers, and not so many EDUCATORS.

Thinking out of the box, critical thinking, what actually is applied outside of the four walls where individuals are initially a foundation of learning.  Luckily, there are even more individuals that but into something more than dittos, more than lectures, but to the doing part.

I say all this as a shout out to some pretty amazing individuals that served me in the capacity of an educator, both as a student and later as colleagues that surrounded me that encouraged me to never, ever, settle for the what the masses are content to settle for in education. Truly, if educators settle for the common idea of what education is, then those educators certainly revert to being teachers, and oh yes, there is such a difference.

In presenting and introducing a Critical Thinking Class this summer, all of a sudden, by matching students with their dreams and what they want to be, and matching them with members of a community in that profession, in two classes (TWO) we have over 36 students that are now examining their immediate communities and discovering needs, solutions, problems, and creative approaches to addressing needs here in our home state.  Two classes and this has happened. 

Two classes and they have discovered what Jane Goodall’s Institute did to change the approach to changing communities around themselves as women.  Two classes and they have discovered elevator pitches that look past what color, race, income level, or position an individual has and to focus on the idea, and presenting ideas in a totally different light.  Two classes and students have discovered the reality of life lessons in job choices, income and rent availability, and having to make tough choices that determine if they make it through one month of a budget line well below the average individual struggling to barely make it week to week.  Two classes and students begin to realize the power to change the communities around them depends on the energy they have to find a way, any way, to make their creative ideas infiltrate the emphasis on scores and tests and find their way to changing their communities amid so much negativity.

After two classes with students who previously have felt suppressed by what they have seen on paper via scores, students are reinvigorated by someone realizing what they can offer society based on their talents, something that will never be able to be gauged by tests, scores, or median lines of achievement.  Students are starting to recognize the abilities that contain and realize the frustration with teachers that refuse to let them bring those very qualities to light and apply them to the lessons they are presented.

It is going to be amazing to see the number of community leaders a small handful of students have communicated with in one summer and the ideas they will present to change so many aspects of our community for the better.  Imagine this happening all year!

Yet it all takes one of the largest gifts many teachers are unable, or prevented from giving students that will allow them to be educators.


I relish the instructors that were truly educators to me and allowed me to infuse creativity in every single lesson or approach that was to be given to someone next in your classroom.  These educators and luckily for me, my education at Slippery Rock University, made me feel guilty every minute if I would put my trusty in something that could not be acted upon in the real world.  Major kudos to the teachers who counted the days until the last day of school handed me ditto after ditto,


and made me never, ever want to be just a teacher, but an educator.  Certainly I believe in Karma and being lucky enough to have the privilege to become a Media Specialist Librarian, freed even more time to motivate, inspire, and challenge the norm of keeping education among four walls and taking this outside those four walls to really determine if education was happening.

I never cherished three words more than PBL (Project Based Learning) and thanks to over 21 years of being an educator (can you believe it?!) – I learned more than the students I have been lucky enough to share doing versus being complacent.  it has made every difference in the world in the what an education is and who determines who is the learner and what is learned.

A different take on what to be thankful for on the Fourth, certainly to those those who have given their own freedoms and lives to allow so many after them to keep ours. But also to inspire future leaders to reinforce the belief that to truly be free, one needs to apply their freedoms to the world around is.  it is up to educators, and not teachers to inspire that one word for others to change the world around all of us.





About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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