Amy Estersohn's Learning Story


I attended a public school that taught me how to love learning and how to question my surroundings. My fifth grade art teacher would welcome us into her classroom during lunchtime for drawing and painting, in which we would often discuss master works by Jackson Pollock and Van Gogh. My ninth grade English teacher would sneak me books from the high school’s supply, trusting that I’d eventually return them. My eleventh grade math teacher would get so excited in the middle of discussing a proof that he’d start sweating in the middle of a lesson and would run out of class to change his shirt. I attribute my personal and professional success to these teachers and these moments in my life. These were the people who taught me to think for myself, which is the best lesson that one can teach another.Every student deserves love and support from teachers and administrators; every student deserves to be enriched in the classroom; every student deserves to attend a school that is safe and encourages open questioning and personal growth. The future will demand international peacemakers, scientists, doctors, political activists, educators, and innovators, and if we don’t have the resources to encourage all students to ask good questions and demand good answers, our future looks even more bleak.I do not have an answer for school reform, but I do have an idea as to how students can learn to think for themselves. I volunteer for an organization called Splash Chicago, in which I help college students teach free classes to high school students, most of whom are from underserved backgrounds. Our classes are hands-on, non-evaluative, and discussion-based, covering topics ranging from feminism through Disney princesses to evolutionary biology. By opening up students to topics they are interested in, we inspire them to ask questions about the world around them and delve further into inquiry. Our students not only learn a few facts that could be useful for class, but they also learn how to question that knowledge, to not only ask ‘What?’ but ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’I cannot tell you what our students will be up to in five, ten years from now. But I can tell you that they will be thinking more closely about the world they will be living in.