Back in PS 46-mid sixties

How does one get involved with a movememt like this. What is the prime impetus? When I sit at parent meetings, I am always itching to tell why I came to this, but usually there is not a lot of speaking time. But I want to to tell it as it brings more focus as to what is wrong with public education. How it tracks out the conformists and marginalizes the non-conformists, maybe even the more innovative components of our society.

My name is Zeines. I am proud of it, but how does a name matter. Well my name starts with the letter Z. Teachers in my day were incredibly uncreative (has it changed?) and would by rote, organize seating in the room alphabetically. This meant that from about first grade to sixth grade, the prime years of public schooling, I was seated at the rear corner next to the window. A perfect place for an artist and a dreamer, a talker and a schemer.

This position allowed for me to get into all kinds of mischief. I could pass dirty notes back and forth to my other exiled friends. I could talk in hushed undertones. Best of all, being a budding artist, I could spend lots of time drawing in my notebooks. Working diligently on creating new cartoon characters, or animating stick men on the edges of my notebooks. Not a bad place for a kid like me to be.

But as I was so engrossed in my projects and my forays into misbehavior, the teacher would suddenly call on me asking my input on one of the many boring and unsubstantiated theories she had up on the board (they were always SHE and mostly Miss). I would look up from my whirlpool of involvement, and struggle for a second to come to some understanding of what was going on, but it always added up to a moment of embarrassment and ridicule. Why was I not paying attention?

The truth is, from a free school perspective, I was. But I was paying attention to the thing that interested me most (drawing). It is the one thing that has led me to more knowledge than anything else. It stands today as my central talent and it has fostered my curiosity into learning such things as folklore, mythology, comparative religion, ethno-musicology, music, physics and world history (this being a brief listing).

So why is it that teachers in public education cannot understand this, when many of the young teachers who come to our school (BFS) do? We live in a society and world culture that inherently does not trust the child. Does not let children’s own natural curiosities lead them to their own world understanding.

Somehow, I made it through the public school system, but as you may concede, not without scars. Not without the constant bruising to my self esteem, my deeper view of myself. The teachers at PS 46 succeeded in burdening me with a sense of failure. That no matter what I try, it could never be accepted by the world around me, despite my tenaciousness. It has taken me a long time to over come these feelings, and they still linger there in that rear corner, by the window, where the letter Z has been placed. And for this reason, I have vowed that this crime not be repeated upon my son.

So when the call came to gather a group of parents and teachers who wanted to take a different approach, I signed on, hook, line and sinker. And the love and passion for this approach has not only been good for my son, it has been good for me. Even at this later stage of my life, I am still learning, and it is in a free school that I do it. And the students are MY teachers now.

Thank you Brooklyn Free School, Thank you AS Neill and thanks to my beautiful wife.


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