I firmly contend that education is defined by empowerment and choices, and that all true learning starts with the opportunity to say, “no.” Because without the presence of real options, how do we know when to say, “yes?” This piece, in a very strange way, is a tribute to our phenomenal daughter, MacKenzie, who will turn eighteen, next week, on March 10th. The following is a story that I have imparted before, please bear with me through this repeat telling; I believe it presents insight into the power and possibilities offered by following a child's lead.
We learned that a brand new children's choir had been formed at Crane School of Music, when Kenzie, our delightful, headstrong songstress, was six going on seven. She was very excited to sing with a group of children and was completely enthralled with becoming a musician at the time. We contacted the amazing Professor Heather Eyerly, founder of the choir and set up an audition. The interview was scheduled directly before the first rehearsal of the spring semester. Dr. Eyerly asked MacKenzie to stand beside the grand piano and do a few voice exercises. Kenzie complied until the last request to sing “Happy Birthday.” She looked directly at her and very clearly and decisively said,“No.” I am eternally grateful to Heather. She didn't take it personally or get all huffy; she simply ushered Kenzie to her place amongst the other children in the choir. This was a defining opportunity that allowed MacKenzie, at the age of six, to fully explore her interests in music and practice her craft, weekly, with professional musicians for nearly ten years. And to this day, she absolutely adores and idolizes Dr. Eyerly.
This instance, as you may have guessed, was neither the first nor last time MacKenzie said, “no” to an authority figure. She was never rude or disrespectful; to be very clear, she was (is) just very confident about her abilities and she was (is) always true to herself.
I have to confess there were several times, as her parent, I was mortified and just wanted to sink beneath the floor boards. MacKenzie is, however, a poster child for self-directed/independent learning because of her ability see her life and education as a series of choices. She has always been willing to voice her opinion and stand up for what she believes is just. She is fierce and lovable, empathetic and passionate, loyal and determined. She is quite simply awesome and, whether offered options, or not, is always willing to say “no!”
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