He’s Allowed to Sit on His Foot.

“So tell me about school,” I said to Dylan one morning, on our long drive to get there.

“It’s school,” he said.

“I was looking for a few more details,” I said.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Dylan said. “It’s just school with less people and more freedom.”

Hm, I thought. Less people and more freedom.

Since he explained it that way, I’ve realized where the beauty of this school lies. It is not, as I once believed, in having fewer people in the class. Instead, it is in giving Dylan more freedom.

Public school sucks the life out of freedom. I can remember having a meeting with the vice principal at Dylan’s public school when he was only in first grade. Dylan had come home from school rather distraught.

“I don’t know why they have to blow that whistle,” he said.

“Whistle?” I asked. “In P.E.?”

“No,” young Dylan explained. “At lunch. Whenever we hear that whistle, it means we are talking too loud.”

At. Lunch.

That’s when I started volunteering at lunchtime, to get an idea of how lunchtime really works.

Kids are forced (all the way through fifth grade) to sit with their class. They don’t get the option of sitting elsewhere. They were allowed to talk, but only if they are doing so quietly.

The lunch lady blew the whistle so many times, my ears were ringing. So I discussed my concerns with the vice principal. He was wonderful – listened carefully and nodded at all the appropriate times.

Best of all, he got rid of the whistle. They went back to “The Clap,” (too hard to explain) to get the children’s attention. It is a much more effective, less harsh way to do so.

The kids are still forced to contain their enthusiasm for life to a whisper whenever they are indoors. They aren’t allowed to sit on their feet, or swing their lunchboxes, or share food with another student. They can’t talk to the people at the table behind or beside them – even if their best friend is sitting there.

In middle school, the lunchroom changes – and becomes a different kind of nightmare. But the lack of freedom is still ever-present in the classroom.

Dylan isn’t going to succeed at his new school because he’s getting more one-on-one attention.

He’s going to succeed because he’s allowed to sit on his foot if he wants to.

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