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  • Writer's pictureMelissa

Don't Kill the Dream

Updated: Dec 31, 2018

One of my son's favorite sayings growing up was, "Don't kill the dream." At first thought, you might envision me to be a harsh mother. Let me provide some context. He would be likely to use this line after I would remind him that living in a Crate and Barrel store as an adult probably wasn't a viable option. Or, owning a Ferrari fresh out of college was probably just as unlikely.

We taught him how to dream. How to think creatively. Then we sent him to school. And then, like so many kids, we watched his creativity dwindle. It was third grade when he started to question the purpose of assignments. When he would get caught reading a book instead of completing his worksheets.

When I look back, the same thing happened to me in third grade. It was at the same age that I began to question the education system. When I learned to "play school". And when my son was in third grade, I taught him how to do the same thing, "play school". It broke my heart then, and it breaks my heart today. 

When he would talk about school needing to change, I would ask him "How can we make that happen?" He would say he was just a kid, and really had no power to change it. Perhaps that's my fault. I was a teacher. I taught him how to play the game of school so he could fit the traditional definition of successful. But does playing along to a vision of school that is based on a 100-year-old model make someone successful in the modern age? 

Instead of asking, "How was your day?" like I did when he was younger, I started saying, "Tell me about your day." Instead of a one-word answer, I would hear stories. Stories about who got in a fight, who was disrespectful to a teacher, or what was served for lunch. I now ask, "What went well today?" and "What was challenging?" I hear about baking flan for a cultural food study, learning how to play ping pong in PE, and a special assembly where a guest band played for the entire high school. I comment on the cool things he has been doing. He budges a little and says, "Yea, sometimes we do cool stuff. But they still have lots of things to fix."

And I return to the question I have been asking him for ten years, "How can you help fix the problem?" He still tells me he's just a kid and has no power to fix problems in the school system. I remind him that he has a voice, both now and as a future adult. I tell him that I'm trying to do my part to make the education system a better place. He tells me that one person can't fix anything. I tell him, "Don't kill the dream."He smiles knowingly, and asks about my day.

Check out the story behind the company that made the Dream key in the picture above at The Giving Keys.


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