Gerri, High School Instructional Aide, CA




Education is really important, but I think that education is broader than just like reading and writing.  Understanding ourselves, having a sense of belonging, having good relationships and feeling cared for - those are foundational for all human beings. 

Gerri is an instructional aide at an alternative high school in California.  She was interviewed by students taking part in a REENVISIONED #schoolpartnership project, in which students interview each other and adults in their lives about the role of school in creating a good life. 

Take a moment and think about a child that you care about and when you're ready tell me about that child.

There's so many its hard to pick somebody, okay I have someone in mind – it it okay if they’re going to be anonymous?

Yeah tell me about them.

I'll see if I can answer most of the questions about this person, if not I’ll change to another student.  The one I’m thinking of is male. I don't actually know him super super well but, I care about his well-being a lot.  The little I know of him is that he's been through a lot of difficulties in life and has had a lot to deal with that is beyond what kids should have to deal with – including related to the most basic things like security and safety.  And, in spite of all, that he's an incredibly sweet, kind, human being.


Now imagine he is in his thirties, out of school, and starting into adult life - What do you hope for him?

I hope that he is able to hold on to that goodness.  I hope he’s able to see his own value and worth and know he has something really valuable to offer the world. I hope he doesn’t get caught up in, um, I have to say the crap, that can come from other people and get in the way of living a good life.


Is there anything that you worry about getting in the way of them achieving that good life?

Yes.  I worry for him - and almost all young people - that they don't have enough support in making good choices and help knowing their options.  I worry they’re not getting their needs met so that they can make choices based on their their heart's desire rather than other things like just survival.


Ideally, what role should schooling play in achieving a good life?

Education is really important, but I think that education is broader than just reading and writing.  Understanding ourselves, having a sense of belonging, having good relationships and feeling cared for - those are foundational for all human beings. 

For kids who don't have a lot of that at home, which is many kids, then school needs to give them opportunities to learn about themselves and grow themselves on that socio-emotional level.


Do you think schools already play that role or do you think they need to work better on that?

I think there's always improvement to be made.  I think Costanoa has that in mind - underneath the philosophy of Costanoa is the value of relationships and the importance of developing a full human being. 

In general, though, education emphasize academics over the emotional and social part of the human beings, so I think that we need to change that.  We know that not all kids are going to go to college, not all kids are destined to be academics, but all kids will grow up to be humans.


Do you think people agree with your ideal or ideas about school?

I think my friends mostly do.  More broadly I think some people do agree with me, but not all do.  I've met a lot of teachers because I've been in the school system for seventeen years or so and I've worked with a lot of different people. I find that the people who value the socio-emotional and relationship aspects for themselves value that for school and students, but people who are just simply academic and focused on a different kind of success think about it differently.


Who was your favorite teacher back when you were in school?

That's interesting. I can remember my favorite teacher – Mrs. McGovern in the sixth grade.  It makes me kind of choked up because I was going through a really hard time in my life at that time.  My dad was really sick - he had been in the hospital a lot, and my parents got divorced.  I My sister got married and, like these things happen, my life went from a four person family to nobody. 

I was doing a lot of writing and poetry and Mrs. McGovern just encouraged me.  She was like "you're a really good writer" and she just kept encouraging me to write.  Nobody had ever said that to me before when I was in school - and nobody said that to me after that either. I felt for the first time like a teacher saw me for who I was, rather than as just a kid in a in a chair. 

She saw me as an individual - so I'll always remember her.

10,000 Stories. One Shared Vision.

REENVISIONED is a national movement to redefine the purpose of school.  We believe schools should foster flourishing individuals and a thriving democratic society.  But what does it mean to thrive or flourish? 

To answer this, we're building the world's largest collection of stories about what it means to live good lives and the role schools should play in helping create them: 10,000 stories from people across the country.  We'll use the stories to learn about our shared values and dreams and to create a new vision for why we send our children to school. 

We work with people like YOU across the country: Catalysts - individuals, classrooms, schools, and community organizations - who interview people in their communities and foster empathy nationwide by sharing the stories on our website and social media:  Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (@reenvisioned). 

Learn more and join the movement.