Bowing Out of the Learning Circle.

The individual is of first importance, not the system. ~J. Krishnamurti


My experiences in my first six years as a school teacher showed me unequivocally that the system is of first importance in a traditional school setting—not the individual.

Testing took precedence over learning. Administrators admonished teachers with frequent reminders of the rules and references to the employee handbook. Students’ needs—even basic, primary needs like hunger—were ignored until they could no longer be ignored.

To students of political science: forget completely about any textbooks ever written, any systems ever devised, any ideologies ever constructed, for none of their authors knew the entirely new, planetary, global and scientific conditions of today. You will have to write the new textbooks, devise the new systems and construct the new ideology needed for our time. Old ideas will only confuse and blind you. ~ Robert Muller

My final school as a teacher has former UN undersecretary Robert Muller as its namesake. He developed the “World Core Curriculum,” which is used by a handful of schools across the globe.

Midway through my third year at this school, the veil was lifted. I saw, painfully clearly, just how hypocritical this wannabe peacemaking school actually is.

Moreover, my paradigm had shifted. What has been seen cannot be unseen, and all that jazz. I had realized several truths:

  • School is oppressive.
  • School is not the answer.
  • School is a bully.
  • School is not the way to a good quality education.

So I got out. But in a messy, dramatic way that made me the talk of the town for a while. I literally heard strangers gossiping about me as I strolled down the street.

I missed my bright, innocent, bubbly students but felt free from an unhealthy, borderline unsafe work environment.

My liberation from the school was a catalyst in our search for and purchase of a tiny cabin across the lake. I was approached by a small group of mothers in my new neighborhood to “homeschool” their three fifth graders… two of whom had been in my class at the school the year prior. I gladly agreed, and we embarked on the new project in September.

For the first month, it was like a honeymoon. The site of the new “school” was my neighbor’s lakefront house, a mere 10-minute walk from my front door. The kids would jump into the lake at recess for a quick swim. I took the plunge along with them a couple times, too. We did a lot of bonding, team building, mindfulness, free writing, and poetry. I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to them.

But by late October, it was becoming clear that the project and I were moving in opposite directions. I was wanting to get more into project-based, student-led learning while the parents were wanting more structure, formal assessment and disciplined studies of spelling, grammar and reading for their kids.

We mutually decided it would be best for another English teacher to take over. Since no one was readily available, so I agreed to continue until we found a replacement. Last week, circumstances arose which propelled me to say, finally, “No more.” I collected my belongings and hugged the children goodbye. They understand. For now, the other teacher, Ed, has taken over my classes.

I am no longer a school teacher.

I am and always will be a teacher and a learner.

Here’s to the journey.

May you live with light, love, goodness and beauty every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year of your life.

I wish happiness to all those I love
I wish happiness to all humans
I wish happiness to this divine planet
I wish happiness to God and to the universe

What an extraordinary universe we live in!

~Robert Muller

I am not trying to destroy Life School.

Let’s get the story straight.

I was a good teacher. I loved my job. Then, everything changed.

I was fired. I was gonna let it go. Cut my losses. Move on.

Then, the school filed a denuncio (restraining order) against me. Unprovoked. I then pursued my rights and was told by the Guatemalan government that I was owed a certain amount of severance pay.

The school is willing to pay me zero in severance pay, as I was a “volunteer teacher.”

My argument is that I was only a volunteer in word; in deed I was an employee and my family was dependent on the income from the job. Further, the work environment and lack of community or support at the school this year, in stark contrast from my first two years there, is what led me to the point of such distress that I could not go on working there.

About two weeks ago, after our first meeting with the judge, due to my own desire to let it go and move on, I decided to drop the case.

I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle, and no matter what the judge says, I am not going to continue the legal process. I told a few friends but not the school or the general public.

It has come to my attention that I was brought up and talked about at length at a parent meeting at the school recently. They presented it as, Michelle’s suing the school and if she wins that money is coming out of the scholarship fund. So now I’m the villain. Apparently some indigenous Maya parents want to circulate a letter saying not to hire me or work with me as an English teacher. In fact, I have already lost at least two work opportunities due to what happened with Life School and the rampant gossip in this relatively tiny community.

To set the record straight: it is not my intention to ruin Life School or take money from the scholarship fund. I am dropping the case. I wish the best for the school, and I have a lot of ideas about how it could change for the better. Sadly, the educational center does not seem willing to change or solve any of its systemic problems.

This is my final public statement on this matter.

Fin. firewoman

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