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Engagement, Opinion, Promising Practices

Not Reformation…Not Transformation, but Restoration

Putting Education on the Bucket List

I have a bucket list, but it’s not the one derived from the movie of the same name. No, my bucket list is a compilation of all the household chores that I’m unable to complete in a cursory manner. The things on my bucket list, generally speaking, require a bucket—as well as warm soapy water, scouring pads and a lot of elbow grease. Like many of you, these are things that, while not necessarily appealing at the moment, end up leaving us with a feeling of deep satisfaction and pride.

Late last week, inspired by weather that far exceeded my expectations and accompanied by a brand new bucket, a selection of cleaning supplies, my iPad and an afternoon beverage, I headed to the backyard to tackle one of the dirtiest jobs on my list. I know, I really should have done this late last fall, but I assured myself that I would continue to cook outside during the winter months!

I purchased a new grill last year, justifying the extra cost by making a firm (!) commitment to its maintenance and care, so this was an important task. After watching a YouTube video produced by the manufacturer, I began the task of dismantling the appliance, piece by piece, and laying it carefully out on the patio. As expected, I was initially overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead of me.

But as I examined the various pieces of cast iron and stainless steel that lay before me, it suddenly struck me that this wasn’t just a cleaning job but a project in restoration.

The layers of grease that had collected in the various nooks and crannies could not simply be wiped away with a damp cloth or dissolved with some caustic chemical. They needed to be loosened and scraped away—layer by layer, bit by bit. The igniter tubes could not just be dusted off. The particles of residue that can clog the fine openings in each tube required some very careful brushwork, with the appropriate tool, and in the proper direction. The stainless steel coverings and shelves couldn’t be quickly wiped down. Instead, the degreaser that I used needed some time to work before being shone back to their original lustre.

Whether we’re talking about an outdoor grill, a piece of antique furniture, a system or a human life, restoration is something that takes time, attentiveness and effort. It’s not for those in a hurry, or those without a belief that something worthwhile lies in wait beneath the accumulated layers of stuff. In a culture that, increasingly, appears to favour quantity over quality, fast over slow, information over knowledge and disposablity over longevity, it is difficult to  begin a conversation about restoration.

But it’s an idea that has lingered with me throughout this past week, and its an idea that I would like to dedicate some time to in the weeks to come.

What if we were to shift some of our discourse about school reformation—even transformation—to one of restoration? Instead of adding more and more layers to our systems of education, what would it look like if we started to strip away some of what has built up over the decades? What might we discover if we took the time to look at what lies beneath the surface? What might we learn about our core values and purpose if we adopted a restorative perspective towards education? What might we discover about the people who enter our schools everyday?

What if we were to add restoration of our systems of education to our bucket list?