Getting Schooled.

From Harper’s magazine, September 2011 issue, which arrived in my mailbox this week. “Getting Schooled: the Re-Education of an American Teacher,” by Garret Keizer. I checked the Harper’s website, but I didn’t see the article up there yet, so I don’t have a link.

In the essay, Keizer writes about returning to teaching in a public high school in Vermont for one year, after a 14-year hiatus, and reflects on the differences between then and now, and also on some of the similarities.

A long essay, but well worth every word. Timely reading for me, as we gear up for another year of homeschooling. Some excerpts:

I’m a bit surprised by…the number of students who readily identify themselves as “attention deficit”. If such a disorder exists, as I’m inclined to think it does, I’m glad there are medications to treat it, although hearing someone say “I’ve got ADD” in a culture of such vast distractedness is a bit like having a fellow passenger on an ocean liner tell you that she feels afloat. Who doesn’t?


During one of the first staff training days, the district superintendent tells us that 10 percent of all high school education will be computer-based by 2014 and rise to 50 percent by 2019, the implication being how close to obsolescence our methods and we ourselves have become. No one ventures to ask what would seem to be the obvious question, which is what sort of high school education Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had and what they might have failed to accomplish without it.


The notion that the very same teachers who made the greatest difference in my life need to be purged from the ranks is dispiriting enough, but the outrageous suggestion that the “brutal facts” of education have more to do with the schoolhouse than with the larger society in which my students live is enough to make me want to spit. Or teach.

And, finally:

If the bell schedule and the calendar are the body of a school, transcendence often comes as an out-of-body experience. When a classrom teacher can somehow manage to get kids “out of school,” either physically or psychologically, then school can begin. Sometimes that happens simply by inviting students to stay after school….Sometimes it happens through a special project, the more hands-on the better—paradoxically, “out of body” often translates in practice to contact with the physical world, to running, drawing, making something real.


Again, this is timely reading for me, as we are starting our next official year of homeschooling next week. The struggle remains for me, as a classical home educator, how to balance the book-work with enough moments of getting out into the world and allowing a bit of real learning — a bit of transcendence, perhaps — to happen. It doesn’t always work out the way I imagine it should, but should is a problematic word anyway.

So, we’ll study a little, and then maybe take the dogs for a walk. Or we’ll study a little and then maybe look out the window for a bird or two. Sometimes we’ll get up and just decide to go to the lake or the city for the day. And that will be okay.

 I have no beautiful school room. I have limited amounts of patience, especially when the kids begin to gripe and bicker. Sometimes we’ll make tea and read poetry. Sometimes we’ll all get angry and have to take time to cool off before we can work together again. But we’ll be learning something all the time, I guess.  Even me.

Especially me.


6 Responses to “Getting Schooled.”

  1. 1 Susan Chast August 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you for all the quotes from this article, as I too have been looking for it on-line with no success. This article is wowing teachers throughout the National and local “writing projects” in which teachers teach teachers. You have become part of that number for me (cf NWP and my area one, PhilWP) I feel lucky that your blog came up on Google, partly because I feel supported as a classroom teacher by your work at home. I offer up prayers for sanity. This is the interaction between internet and research and classroom and home that could be ideal.

    • 2 RegularMom August 13, 2011 at 3:26 pm


      I accept with thanks all prayers for sanity, and I offer up some of my own to all the teachers out there who don’t have it as good as I do. I have 2 students, and the freedom to teach what I want the way I want to. Who am I to complain? 🙂

  2. 3 Bob Heist August 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Hi Susan,

    I am glad that I found your blog — this was a great post. I just wanted to send a link so that if your readers are interested they may download/read Keizer’s essay. I’ve posted it here:

    • 4 Bob Heist August 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      Sorry, I mistakenly addressed my comment to Susan. Duh!

      • 5 RegularMom August 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

        Hi Bob, No problem. And thanks for the link. 🙂 RM

      • 6 anne August 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm

        Thank you so much, Bob, for the article. I only had the first 3 pages from a professor friend and heard some of Keizer’s interviews about his new book. I’m a former Wisconsin trained teacher and have been following the plight of teachers for some time. I have echoed many of Kiezer’s sentiments and am looking forward to reading the rest of the article.

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