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Chrissy Dasco hopes to expose people to a new way of thinking about education at STUDENTx

(Courtesy STUDENTx's Official Facebook)

(Courtesy STUDENTx’s Official Facebook)

Chrissy Dasco has known for a long time that she wants to become a teacher.

However, she does not want to be the type of teacher that gives out all of the answers to her students. Often, she isn’t equipped with all of the right answers herself.

“I don’t want to be that person that has all the answers and stands up at the front of the classroom and tells people what to think and how to think about it and what to do and whether they’re right or wrong,” she said. “I just want to be a person who has conversations with other people, who might inspire those people to think about things in a different way and explore their interests even more.

“I want to share my knowledge with others. I don’t want to tell others what is knowledge,” she said.

That is exactly what Dasco hopes to do when she takes the stage at the STUDENTx event Thursday night to present a self-written spoken word poem titled “Do Less, Be More,” which focuses on issues with the educational system. She wants to encourage others to consider her views and to look at the world through what she has found to be true, not to accept what she says as unquestioned truth.

Although Dasco has always had a premonition that she wants to teach others – she said she feels a calling to cultivate connections between young people and to foster their internal motivation to want to learn – the alternative education major and Monson native sees a lot wrong with the current state of the educational system.

In particular, she is concerned with a culture that she says is engaged in constant consumption and production that leads to people working detrimentally long hours. She said it is a feeling that has “infected” her at times, in particular when she worked as a nanny last summer, watching a child who could not sit still. The experience inspired her to embrace the phrase that she later gave to her poem, “Do Less, Be More.”

At first the phrase took on a personal meaning. But as she read more on the subject, especially regarding transition towns, she realized the idea had value to a wider range of areas.

One of these areas is education. Dasco takes issue with the pressure that the educational system places on children to perform on common evaluations, such as standardized tests.

“I know that the way this education system is operating in this country and how it is affecting the world is not conducive to creating a culture of happy, healthy, loving people,” she said.

This semester Dasco has become involved with the Center for Educational Policy and Advocacy’s Access and Affordability core team and has interned at Northstar, an alternative learning center located in Sunderland, a place she said is the type of school she wished she could have attended for high school. She said people teach courses that are of interest to students, including poetry writing, Shakespeare and bread making. Dasco teaches a class on sustainability issues.

“I don’t have all of the answers, but every week I go in and I talk with teenagers about sustainability issues and we work toward finding sustainable solutions together,” she said. “I like that way more than, ‘Here is the textbook, here is the answer.’

“It’s my vision to start an alternative school similar to that someday,” she added.

Despite Dasco’s strong feelings on what changes need to be made to the educational system and the urging of her friend to apply to present at STUDENTx in the past, she never felt prepared to try to get her name on the student showcase’s lineup.

That was, she never felt prepared until a few weekends ago when she watched the documentary “Teach,” which explores the pressure that the American educational system places on teachers to get their students to perform well on tests. It left her feeling down and she spent the majority of the next day writing – something she does when she needs to work though her feelings and discontent. The result was a five-to-six-minute-long spoken word poem – the one she will be performing Thursday night.

When Dasco – who said she has never performed at any sort of open mic night or similar event before – performed the piece as a part of her interview for the STUDENTX showcase, she said the poem was met with good reception.

“A lecture is a lecture, but a poem really hits that emotional portion,” she said.

She’s hoping that on Thursday night she will be able to tap into the audience’s emotional side and persuade them to revaluate their beliefs on education. She is especially excited for her friends to be able to hear the poem, because she said she has incorporated a lot of recent discussions she has had on the issue into her piece.

“This is (the product of) all the conversations I’ve been having with my friends, with my professors revolving around this that I’m going to be sharing. It’s my life, not just how I feel about something,” she said. “I hope that they’re open to consider what I say as a possible truth. I hope that they allow themselves to try to view the world from my truth for a little bit and see what that does for them.”

The STUDENTx showcase is being held in the Campus Center auditorium from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday. Admission is free and open to the community.

 

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at arentsch@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.

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