Way before I worked for Disney Club Penguin, I knew my life should be about creativity and kids. When I graduated from the University of Alberta, armed with my Bachelors of Education, new wisdom, and mighty optimism, I was more than ready to commit to that. Indeed, I’d teach high school English and change the world!
In my dreams, the imaginations of my pupils would ignite every day. Each student would learn to love the likes of Chaucer, Hemingway, etc. My ground-breaking lessons and passion for writing, reading, analysis, reflection, connection, and communication would be the catalysts for these young people to take on the world with crazy-amazing critical thinking skills and unmatched literary prowess. And let’s just be real here … what 18-year-old person could (or would want to) live without THAT STUFF?!
(Insert big pause for effect here. Please try to FEEL that beautiful, naïve, bright-burning idealism without thinking about what happened next.)
OK, so, despite valiant efforts, ten years of AMAZING students, sleepless lesson-planning nights, miles of thoughtfully graded essays, hundreds of emails to parents, impassioned activities, great literature, films, plays, and poems, a lot less of that idealism actually manifested into reality. Or, if it did, it was often by accident. Because when we think of the real function of schools, (even if you’ve dutifully studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) we sometimes forget that the people coming to them may not need, first and foremost, to be bold and innovative with their verb usage.
A lot of students come to school for many other, bigger (dare I say better?) reasons. I’ve seen students with bruises and black eyes who needed school to help get them out of their homes, students who needed it to get them closer to Olympic volleyball dreams, and students who just came every day because with everything else happening in their lives, they really needed some friends. It turns out not all students need schools to cultivate their satirical essay skills. Instead, they’re places of opportunity — places where many varied and unexpected things happen to help people lead THEIR best lives. THEIRS.
Except for my own kids’ classroom experiences, I feel a bit further away from the world of education now, but I’ve never lost my passion for kids, creativity, and learning. This Autumn, I’m lucky to again feel that optimistic, back-to-school excitement because Club Penguin and Free the Children are helping to build three new schools in Ecuador, Haiti, and India.
The whole team here at Club Penguin thinks it’s a pretty big deal that even more kids will have a place to go where they can get closer to their very own individual dreams. School means possibilities of ALL KINDS — and everyone should have those.
Parent, teacher, or student, we’d love to hear about your school experiences in the comments below.
Photos courtesy of ThinkStock/Free the Children
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Deanna Kent-McDonald is the guest blogger for this post. She’s the mom of some super-fabulously-amazing boys and a writer for Disney Club Penguin.More On