Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Learning About Learning

Korea gives education a high priority and has  great respect for what education is able to do for the country and the individual. It ranks high in the results that it achieves in primary and secondary school programs. A religious sister writing for Catholic Digest reminds us of the price that many pay for the emphasis on achievement in studies.

While in high school she heard over and over again that her studies, no matter how difficult and time consuming,  would propel her to the middle class. You only have to overcome the trials of the present  and your future is assured. Do you know what life is ahead of you if you don't graduate from college? These words made her feel miserable but made her pay attention to what was being said.

At the same time she had all kinds of questions  about her education. What is the reason for school? What is learning and study all about? One of her teachers made her feel lousy. He pointed to the janitor working outside sweeping and told her if she doesn't study she will be doing that kind of work. One of the students asked if the janitor was her father and all the students began to laugh making her feel nausea and wanting to leave.

Did she have to go along with what was being demanded? Competition-- winning, was that what it was all about? She felt alone, despondent, was there any  way out of the maze? Feeling lost while at home she saw a small book on St. Francis on the book shelf and began to read  and  peace and freedom came.  A person without possessions was free... Without freedom we will not be happy. She realized there was another road that could be traveled.

After that she read all the books that she found in her  house on the lives of the Saints. She wanted the freedom that these Saints experienced. It didn't make any difference what college she would attend.
No longer was this of primary importance and she entered a college run by an order of  religious nuns. 

For her it was the  first  time  she  was to meet sisters who wore  every day dress. At first seeing the nuns dressed without the  habits they seemed to be inelegant. They were not like the sisters she knew from the parish and kindergarten she attended.

After graduation she worked as a teacher for over two years with the community and  ended up as a member of that community of sisters. After finishing her course of studies her first assignment was precisely to be a teacher at the high school level. She was going back to the place where she felt so shackled and despondent.

However, the school she taught was much different from her own high school years. The teaching based on Christian principles was based on dignity and respect for the students. They were able to temper the hell of college entrance examinations and with the families make the search for learning and humanity the spirit of the school.

She taught at the school for 15 years and was regarded as a good teacher by the talk in the school community. But was that the reality? Were the thoughts that she had during her own years of schooling still the reality?

Two years ago she was faced with a great challenge. Her job was not to cram into the minds of the children what she deemed necessary but to foster  students' thinking. They were to  define what was necessary and she was to help them achieve their goal and to keep students as the subject of the learning.

This was an import from Europe and required a big change in the way she approached her students. What she considered the proper educational method  was a lie and a barrier in  helping students to grow as human beings.  She learned  something  new about learning. She was learning something that answered the questions she had as a student. She liberated herself and the students.