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Crossing over the bridge into Pennsylvania, I mused on how long it had been since I’d felt sad, pressured, daunted, ground down, or any of the tangle of difficult emotions I used to experience driving to work. And it wasn’t because I had been teaching some of Trenton’s most troubled teenagers. They were great and I loved seeing them each day; they were the reason I soldiered on.
The difference is that these days, I get to do what I’m passionate about and what I went into teaching to do—showing kids a door to a larger world and assuring them it’s wonderful to step through it. This is a far, far cry from making sure everybody’s ready for the next high-stakes test.
Our centers are dedicated to self-directed learning, but half the secret to our success is that we also practice self-directed teaching. Nobody is forced to teach courses they’re uninspired by; if some of our teens are interested in a topic, we find someone who wants to teach it. So just as every kid who walks into my classroom has chosen to be there, I’m also there entirely by choice. Together, we co-create wonderful learning experiences that are so much rarer in environments impaired by an atmosphere of reluctance and coercion.
We also respect each teacher’s originality in ways that large institutions simply can’t. They have too many teachers, too many kids and too many opposing interests at play to allow for our level of individual freedom, much as they may wish otherwise. But at BLC, we’re free to celebrate different teaching styles, and to encourage our teens to think about how to balance their education by making the most of the different approaches their teachers have to offer. It’s a tremendous blessing for the kids when there’s no unwieldy bureaucracy or restrictive state mandates standing in the way of letting a thousand flowers bloom.
Remember when you were in school and there were some truly inspired teachers who walked into the room beaming to be there, happy to see you and your classmates, excited about the subject, eager to get started and find out what the day would bring? That’s us. That’s each of our teachers, each and every day.