I had spent six years in a Montessori school. Starting from the earliest age they’ll start a child (2), I was learning how to learn. Learning how to lead. Learning how to explore whatever I was curious about… and learning that every choice has consequences.
You’re encouraged to discover; to dive deep; to go hands-on with anything while figuring out how it works, how it breaks, and how the world doesn’t end when something DOES break. Not because some adult comes to the rescue, but because — in pure Montessori fashion — you’re given space to put things back together. To learn that it’s safe to fail. And start again.
Halfway through the third grade, I was mainstreamed into Josephine Wells Elementary School in Hapeville, Georgia. I had never been taught about single-file lines, raising hands, or sitting in my seat and remaining silent while adults lectured. This was nothing I had ever experienced and as you might imagine, I was immediately labeled a discipline problem.
I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. “Bonnie’s too big for her britches,” was the usual complaint from a teacher. The truth of it is, I had only ever been in a learning environment that didn’t police or schedule our urination. So how was I to know that leaving the room during instruction because I needed to pee was an unforgivable sin?
Turns out I was also really bored. At the age of 8, I tested on an 8th grade level, but had to enter Jo Wells as a mid-year third-grader. I WAS SO BORED.
It wasn’t until the 5th grade when Mrs. Gloria Stivers brilliantly noticed, “She’s not a PROBLEM CHILD; she’s a genius.” That’s when things began to turn around.
I would still be disciplined throughout gradeschool for all the low enoughness some of my teachers had around me, and my unwillingness to lower my enoughness to create the proper power dynamic in the room. I get it! I *was* a problem, where traditional education is concerned! Traditional education is meant to build worker bees. Followers. Head-down, work-hard, pay-your-taxes, raise-a-family, retire tired normal people.
And that was never meant to be me.
Driving by Jo Wells today brought up a ridiculous amount of emotion. Some of it had to do with the molestation that was permitted there. Some of it had to do with the punishment I got for the audacity of believing in myself. Some of it had to do with how very scared I was when our lives changed so completely so quickly when my father left. Most of it had to do with how my heart aches for any child today who is being diminished by adults who see her light and do what their JOB dictates that they do rather than doing what their heart KNOWS is the right choice.
My hope in this moment is that those children hold tight to their enoughness. Yeah, you may have to let it dip a little bit, but please don’t let it die. Hold onto some little thread of it — even as that makes you unpopular or weird — because you’ll be able to come around and collect it in adulthood and if you’re anything like me, you’ll change the world with the momentum you’ll get from there.