Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Rite of Passage Three –No Longer Alone-
Q. Are all the measurements of achievement really necessary? When marks (grades) and scores are removed, does achievement suffer, or is there a greater sense of self-worth?
I went from a highly regimented British public school (a curious name for a private school) to a Rudolf Steiner school called Michael Hall in Forest Row, Sussex, England.
Rudolf Steiner was a German educator who introduced a number of innovative ideas amongst which was…no marks or grades or position in class, none at all!
The difference this made in my young life was remarkable. I went from fear and failure to full acceptance for just who I was; without being measured or compared to any of my fellow students. I’m actually grinning to myself as I seek out the words to describe how wonderful it was to go to school and delight in learning.
At eleven years old I was placed in Ms. Dawson’s class with other youngsters of my age. They were a friendly lot who, for the most part, had been with Ms. Dawson since they were six and would stay with her until they were sixteen. Imagine, one teacher for ones whole school life. No need for measurement when you are that well known and cared for so consistently.
There were other ‘specialist’ teachers who helped us with other languages, woodworking, gardening and yes…knitting!
Michael Hall was co-educational; both boys and girls took every class –no his or her differentiation was made as to subject interest or proficiency…everyone got to ‘have a go’.
This extraordinary method even influenced the sports field where I introduced the game of Cricket. We didn’t score runs; we bowled and batted our way through lovely afternoons and no team ever won!
Just try tennis where you hit a ball back and forth for a fun half-hour. It’s like a warm-up before a match that never starts.
I can almost hear the ‘Humph!” of disapproval from the legions of us that have endured competition as a way of “preparing us for the real world” where, like the salmon ‘smolt’ (a young salmon after the parr stage) in my story one either eats or gets eaten!
Surely that is what life is about…a daily contest between winners (1%) and relative losers (the rest of us?)
I was hugely grateful for the relief this brought to my life and my sense of self-worth.
I was happy with who I was in the midst of others who shared in the common joyful purpose of discovery.
So…what about now?
Talk about measurement!
We are told that true success begins in kindergarten, at 4-5 years old, where the games we play can shape us for the real world of even childhood.
Test, test, test…measure, measure, measure…all urged on with the grand prize of winning a scholarship to a great school that will almost guarantee you a favored place in the community of fellow ‘strivers’!
How good to be so measurably “bright” “talented” and “destined for success”.
How challenging to be near the bottom of the class and athletically “clumsy”?
But that’s the way that life is…right?
I like to think that Ms. Dawson’s acceptance of this Pubic School boy and her approval of my interest in trying to understand what she patiently taught us…was what fueled my lifelong pursuit of discoveryand how unimpressed I became of the “ratings” that would measure my later success on television.
I did that show because I loved it and the only opinion that really mattered was my wife Treena’s. Treena, who produced the show, gave me my very own, very private, “grade” for each program.
In a rather lovely way, she took over from Ms. Dawson.
You will meet Treena in my next blog. We fell in love at Michael Hall.