"I believe that interests are the signs and symptoms of growing power."
I was recently introduced to the writings of education philosopher John Dewey. It was love at first read. In his “My Pedagogic Creed”, he addressed the thoughts and concerns I have had for a while on education but in a far more elegant way than I ever will. The creed has a lot of good stuff, mostly about how education should build something and how students are more than empty heads to be filled, but the sentence which jumped out at me was "I believe that interests are the signs and symptoms of growing power”. I had to think about that for a moment. If knowledge is power, then perhaps interests are signs of growing knowledge but also pathways to further knowledge.
I think about my time in secondary school. I did not feel powerful. I felt like no matter what I did or what I learned, someone was telling me that I was just a kid and didn’t understand anything. I think about the middle schoolers I’ve been working with and how powerless they must feel. I think about what they’ve told me when they don’t understand something or when the older kids push them out of the way for games. They don’t look powerful. But they have interests. I have a dog lover in my class. I have a soccer player. I have a student who does origami and collects tiny erasers. They don’t come in with empty heads and a set ability. They already know things and have interests and abilities and understandings that I don’t. This rant isn’t meant to be a touchy-feely proclamation of “everyone’s special” but rather the statement of a goal for myself: Learn my students’ interest. Learn what they already know or what they could know and excel at if given the right tools and environment.