To replicate, to remediate, or to reinvent – the 3 Rs of education

I meet a lot of teachers in my work. It’s interesting to listen to their stories about who they are and how they became teachers. I’ve noticed that there seems to be a real split in the ranks about the reason they became teachers.

On one side are teachers who themselves had a good experience in school. They generally were successful and their mission is to create those same kinds of experiences and memories for the children they serve. They are replicating their own experience.

On the other side are teachers who feel the school system failed them. Some dropped out, some rebelled, some got horrible grades, but at some point in their lives they decided to dedicate themselves to righting that wrong. They are determined to create different kinds of experiences and memories for the children they serve. They are remediating their own experience.

I don’t know any other profession where there is such a polarization. And yes, of course this is a generalization. You can’t expect to split a large and varied group of people into two neat groups (let’s not get all left brain/right brain here now.)

But there is a point to be made. Replicators and remediators bring two divergent world views to the table. This disparity can become a problem when we try to talk about how to change education, because we hear the same words and think we are being understood, but the underlying experiences are so vastly different that the meaning is muddled.

And yet, I don’t believe either of those stances are sufficient. We must reinvent education in a way that doesn’t depend on childhood experiences. Because childhood experience is too narrow a lens with which to view the world. We have to think about how our own learning experiences color our opinions and allow other’s experiences to carry just as much weight as ours.

To replicate, to remediate, or to reinvent. I choose reinvent.


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