The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vancouver School of Arts and Academics

Last week I had the honor of lecturing at the School of Arts and Academics in Vancouver, Washington.  I have to tell you that it is a slightly disorienting experience, walking in through the front doors and watching kids line up to play classical music on a hall piano.  Susan, my contact, has been there for over ten years, and can remember only one fight.  Kids smile and hold hands as they walk through the halls, and this grade 7-12 school is, in many ways, the very best I have ever seen.  Classes in dance, music, performance, video and art braid with traditional math, history, and science.  It's like an episode of "Fame" come to life.  I understand that this is special, a "magnet" school that kids compete to get into, but the aura is so darned positive, the kids so eager to learn, that it makes me wonder what would be necessary to give more kids this opportunity, to lift more institutions of learning to this level. 
I have to think that a major reason that VSAA is so successful is that the kids want to be there.  They can visualize a future in the arts, and understand that this school is helping them move along their road of Trials.  That the teachers are their Allies, offering opportunities to refine their Powers and abilities.  That perspective is missing in most educational experiences.  In most cases, the kids are there because their parents told them to go.  the students have on ly the vaguest sense of how their studies will translate to real-world happiness and success.  "Just do it," we tell them.  And the parents who tell them to go are not in jobs that make them happy. Their teachers often aren't happy, feelign underpaid and overworked.  What exactly do students have to be happy about?
If you are the parent of a high school kid, the best thing you can possibly do is find contentment in your own life, to be workign toward your own dream.  Then, and only then, will your children feel that if they follow in your footsteps, if they listen to your words, they have an excellent chance of fulfilling their deepest dreams.  It is when we feel we are "becoming" that we are happiest and healthiest.  It is then that we can teach, and parent, when we can legitimately say "follow me" and mean, with every fiber of our being, that it is possible to be the Hero in the adventure of our own lifetimes.  This is Lifewriting...this is everything that I've been teaching for the last decade.  Those kids at VSAA can see their future in front of them, and know that it is bright, and that every step they take is bringing them closer.  That is why they sing in the halls.  That is why they smile, and why they are so easy to teach.  Their teachers love to teach. Their parents support their dreams.  The way ahead is clear.
Don't all our children deserve as much?  Don't we all?

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