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Educational Autobiography, or Learning to Learn

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 Educational Autobiography

Table of Contents

1.Leaving the Bagel on the Dashboard, or a first lesson in self-sufficiency (Pre-School)

2. Calling my 2nd Grade Teacher Torica, or adventures in progressive elementary school (Pre-K–2)

3.The Oregon Trail, or exploring and loving public school (3-5)

4. Volleying, or let’s just not talk about it (6-7)

5. Losing Letters, or how to memorize a sonnet (8)

6. Stay Cool, Soda Pop, or how to stop crying over physics tests (9-12)

7. The Best Years of Your Life, or coming home to Bryn Mawr (Present)


Chapter 1

            In the years before the school day started much too early for me to even consider food before rushing out the door, I ate breakfast daily. My mother, a New Yorker born and bre(a)d, knew the key to a good bagel, and how that perfect everything bagel was essential to start the day. When I was about 3, every day I’d eat half an everything bagel with some cream cheese, while my mom drove me to the church about 10 minutes from our house whose basement was home to my pre-school. This process of drop off frightened me. I didn’t like pre-school, the idea that I was going to be left in a place where I would have to stay all day, where I’d be mandated to nap away from my own bed, and where the teachers were too cold or preoccupied with other students to notice that I was desolate at being away from my mom. Frankly, I was a little scared she’d never come back to get me.

            For weeks and weeks, I cried about it, making myself miserable and, in retrospect, probably making my mom feel horrible, too. I can only imagine the idea of leaving an inconsolable child with a relative stranger, but it hurts my heart to think that my mom had to do it daily. It wasn’t really getting any better, and no matter how much anyone else tried, it wasn’t going to until I accepted that I needed to be a big girl, and keep my emotions in check given the overwhelming evidence that my mom would come back for me.

            As is the nature of memory formulated at such a young age, I don’t recall how my plan of action came about. I think I have a vague image of actually being there, but a better recollection of it being often retold as a classic childhood story. In any case, one day, I came up with a system that allowed me to soothe myself enough to go into school and make it through the day. I reckoned that if I didn’t finish my morning bagel, and instead left it right on the dashboard where my mom would see it, she couldn’t forget something so important as coming to pick me up, if only to let me finish my breakfast, hours later. This tether to my home life, a bagel half in my belly and half riding with my mom on her way to work, gave me the courage I needed to face my fears about school.

            As this story has come up over time, it’s become less about retelling a cute childhood tale, and more a process of encouragement from my mom to me, reminding me that I have the capabilities to be self-sufficient and face what scares me. Sometimes I’ll ask her about it, and she’ll talk about how impressed she was, that, as a three year old, I was able to come up with a method that, as truly irrational as it may sound now, made sense enough to me that I was able to comfort myself with it, shore up some resilience, and carry on.

            The discussion we had in Thursday’s class regarding the nature of interaction, as framed by Dewey and complicated by our own thoughts, brought this story to mind. My student-teacher relationship and interactions in pre-school were vastly different from the interactions that I found at home with my parents, and especially my mom. I felt enveloped in warmth and laughter at home, whereas in school, the world felt too big, and I too small to confront it on my own. With this discrepancy in my interactions with other people and my environment at home and at school, fear began to develop. I of course recognize now that pre-school was not such a scary place, but, as I think about it, I realize that this experience points to a larger need, for me and probably others, to have a good interaction with oneself. I can get pretty wrapped up in my own thoughts and anxieties, sometimes, and without a strategy to pull myself out, it can get overwhelming. So, I continue to need to find strategies for myself, to calm myself and press on through challenges. This kind of self-sufficiency has always been something that I’ve prided myself on, and, as I think of it from an educative standpoint, an important aspect of interaction that I’ve learned and relearned over time.