As being the dad of the Sattvic Family, I’ve been reminded that my 2 cents count more than… well, 2 cents so I’ve decided to write a series entitled Unschooling in Asia: A Dad’s Perspective. My wife, soulmate, and Angel Bear has been churning out stories and interviews and posts and pictures and I’ve yet to add squat to our adventures and relay how utterly thankful that I am to have been able to become part of our family once again, out of the rat race.
You see, one year ago, I was spending most of my waking hours involved in teaching English to Korean middle school students. You might have heard that English as a Second Language teaching, or ESL, is a breeze and mostly for post university kids who want to pay off their student loans while continuing their college habits of drinking pint after frosty pint of asian beer til they recount why the Detroit Red Wings are the best sports team in history to people who’s english doesn’t go beyond “Where are you from” and “Nice to meet you”. Okay maybe that part was just me… except without the pint cause I’m allergic to the wheat in beer… yes! It gives me asthma, okay??!? Read more at Holistic Dad. But NO! ESL is not the easiest thing in the world, especially in countries where the educational system saps the life-force out of budding adolescents. I am also a perfectionist when it comes to putting myself on the line, like teaching, acting or even writing a blog post! Maybe that’s why its taken so long…
Anywhoo… The big problem with ESL teaching overseas is that recruiters are not employed by the schools. There is no communication between the person doing the hiring and the school that wants the teacher! After a presentation I gave to some english heads at other local schools, I was asked why most ESL teachers have no teaching ability and why do they lack the knowledge of educating students? I sadly said, because you never asked and you didn’t hire teachers that came with that knowledge. Most of the ESL teachers being under 30 have to learn how to teach in one powerpoint themed weekend. So wanting to be the best I could, I devoted my whole being to powerpoint presentations, lesson plans, and finding ways of engaging exhausted physically burnt out 15 year olds who probably understood 30% of what I said. Imagine if you had to learn Geometry Proofs again, but you only sleep 5 hours a night and you understand 30% of the information. How far into the class do you think you could go without giving up? One month? One week? Maybe even one day? And what happens when you give up, and your best friend is sitting in-front of you and the boy next to you has reallllly cool hair and his eyelashes are long and he’s got such a cute smile… wait did he just look over at me…. OMG! But the point is, I learned a very important lesson.
In other words. I never saw my family. The 9 to 6 almost killed me and my marriage, and my daughter barely new me. She wanted to only be with her mom. Now, that has completely changed and we are beyond pals. But back then, I lived to work and so did everyone else.
Overworked kids, means overworked adults. I was fighting for attention with every step! Now… let’s fast forward to the present time. I’m no longer working. I’m ‘teaching’ only Kaya, a little 3 year old who tells me what she likes and doesn’t like. “Papa, no likey!” Or “I like it, I like spicy!” No Kaya, you never like spicy, but you always try. And that’s why we love you so much. You see unschooling kids choose what to learn and when! We don’t force learning on them. That’s not the point of education. It creates a resistance in children when they are forced to do something they don’t want to do. It’s a rebellion of sorts. I don’t want to wear my uniform correctly, I don’t want to learn about something I’ll never use in real life, and NO I don’t want to say thank you to some person I’ve never met who is holding the ice-cream out of reach just to hear me say THANK YOU!!!
I’ve now taken education to a different level; not of necessity, but of opportunity. It’s not necessary that Kaya learns to go number 2 in the potty when we are out at a restaurant. I have no doubt that in time, Kaya’s own time, that it will stop! Instead, how about, it’s such a great opportunity that we live here in Phuket eating at an empty restaurant at 4:30pm watching the tide come back in along Rawai Beach as the fishing boats are being tied off and the workers are lazily cleaning their ropes and shellfish baskets to a calming breeze and slowly setting sun. For these are Kaya’s moments of education. What she chooses to watch and learn from is up to her. Whether she asks me about the water coming closer and closer or if she questions how the men are coiling the lines, I know she is actively using her senses and mind growing as a child should. And for this I am grateful, grateful to watch and grow along side her. And maybe while watching Kaya see life unfold, I am being unschooled as well. For I’m only 31 and I’m not done learning.
So that’s it for part one of Unschooling in Asia: A Dad’s Perspective. Keep a look out for more posts from the Sattvic family!