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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Don't Let School Get in the Way of Your Education.


I remember my last day of high school as one of the greatest days of my life and I think about it often

I viscerally remember that day, we left the high school, walked to Subway, went to Sev, got Slurpees and we walked across the street and hung out in the park and giggled the day away. I thought if this is life, I'm in.

I loved learning but I hated school. I was kicked out of too many classes for laughing and it wasn't at others, I legit thought some circumstances were hilarious, like in grade 2 when Mrs. Arden was giving us some birds and the bees talk and kept referencing hoses and flowers. Or in Grade One when Tia got sick and puked, then Sean saw it and then puked and then Elise peed her pants, I felt bad for the custodian.

I got bullied bad enough I had to change elementary schools, in high school I got thrown into a garbage can and I started rallying back at everything, I had a semi-permanent chair in the principles office and I held the record for getting garbage duty for 13 weeks. I was banned from the cafeteria for 3 months and for the record I did not start that food fight I just responded to it and to the kid who brought raw eggs, well played.

I have very few academic memories that I think back on and go that really taught me something. I do remember feeling very uncomfortable in Social Studies 9 when Mr. Schmidt got us to re-enact confederacy and we wore colonial hats made out of newspaper.

I felt like a cog in the machine which makes sense because our public school system is a product of the industrial revolution. I have some serious concerns about the system itself, like why do we put our children in an environment where they have to be still for long periods of time when they are at a time in their life when they have the most amount of energy? And why do we interrupt their deep work with bells? Why do we grade them like freaking eggs? And my biggest one, why do we force them to feel like they have to be good at everything and if they are not they are failures. I don't know a single adult who is good at everything. If Susie Q is great at math but not at creative writing why don't we foster that math muscle and celebrate it.

I remember at my Grade 7 graduation, I was at that I'm not going to conform to gender normative assumptions stage and I ended up looking like Jack Nicholson at the beach, I wore white denim shorteralls, a short sleeved baby blue polyester collared button up and blue lensed black framed glasses. I got the only award I ever really cared about, I got the "sticks to her guns award" it celebrated me having a position, defending it and I appreciated Mrs. MacDonald for recognizing that a young woman having an opinion and publicly sharing it should be celebrated.

15 years later I recognize that my favourite thing to do in this world is to learn. I'm compulsively curious and I feel like the system of my schooling could've done a better job to foster and embrace that. I talk to young people and my cuzzins and same narrative - when will this be over? Why are we killing young peoples desire to learn?

I feel like I learned so much out of the classroom beyond the textbooks in the crevasses of the system I found my greatest teachings. In the theatre program, on the basketball courts, baseball practices, in the gully's and around the fires. I literally don't remember a single math course, I do remember Miss Gambrel teaching me how to read a weather map and be like woah this is useful. I craved more useful applications, like why didn't anyone teach me how to do my taxes? Or plan for retirement? Or teach me how to learn - that's the biggest lesson. Where was the philosophy?

I remember asking my teacher in Grade 1, I was 5 years old. "but what's beyond the universe"? She responded with "please don't ask silly questions." I'm literally still asking that question and now I'm writing a play about it. To me, in that moment and upon reflection, it was an essential question that was me asking how do I fit into all of this and what's my part.

I think I remember that last day of high school fondly and often because it felt like freedom, I felt like I could take control of my learning again and I'm grateful everyday that I'm afforded that privilege. I may not have Indigenous sovereignty but I damn well have artistic sovereignty and it feels great.

I love teachers but I dislike the system we hold our education in.

In love and with humility,

kim

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein