Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

My Educational Autobiography

eshim's picture
  1. Preschool: Learning about Colors
  2. Elementary School: Birds, Earthworms and Bees
  3. Elementary School: Rollerblading
  4. Elementary School: Pokemon Cards


Learning about Colors


This chapter discusses an altercation that I had with a student in preschool. I was being picked on and I lashed out by kicking a redheaded boy in the shin. During this altercation, I first became aware of my status as a minority in the school.

I seemed to have been oblivious to that fact for some time. In my mind, I saw the redheaded boy as an easy target; he may have been laughing at me because of my pale, yellow skin, but I fought back easily because he was no less unique than me, with his red hair and his freckles. To others, I was an easy target because I was so physically different from them. My skin color, my eyes and nose, all showed that I was not like the majority of my classmates. After the fight, I remember an older student from the elementary school entering my classroom after recess and reporting the incident to my teacher. I was being picked on, yet I was sent to time-out. The title of this chapter is a reference to race and the colors of our skin and hair. Being one of the few Asian students in the class, I was quickly aware of such characteristics and now wonder why these were never a topic of discussion in class.

Education back when I was younger seemed to have been limited to the textbooks and strict academic agenda set by the school. Being in a Catholic school, I was a part of a very strict academic agenda. According to Dewey, this type of setting was a typical traditional academic setting, where there was a clear educational objective. My fallout with the student now clearly highlights the weaknesses of a traditional education. As Dewey wrote, “the studies of a traditional school…[were] settled upon outside the present life-experience of the learner,” (chapter 7). I translated these “life-experiences” as social interactions and what my school failed to address to us as young preschoolers was the diversity around us and how to acknowledge that respectfully. My fallout was a direct result of the lack of education about race and diversity in the classroom. This directly relates to what Dewey discussed and how a progressive education might be more open to discussing such things. Though Dewey criticizes a progressive education’s improvisation methods as an impediment to proper teaching, it is an important aspect especially in teaching students about their social surroundings, which I see as an important part of one’s academic career. Schools like my Catholic school assessed experiences and deciphered those that seemed educative and those that did not. The cause of my altercation must have not fallen under their academic agenda and was thus not a topic of discussion in class. As a religious institution, we focused on biblical preaching, such as how we were seen as equals through the eyes of God. Unfortunately, this did not suffice to explain the dark-haired, light-haired, pale-skin, dark-skin that surrounded us four or five-year olds.

Through this experience, I can understand Dewey’s argument of how neither a traditional nor progressive education is adequate. I do not want to criticize the actual content of my preschool education as ineffective, but if there was a mixture of a progressive academic agenda, I think it could better tackle more personal experiences of students, especially today where topics like bullying are so prevalent in schools.