Stacey Ebert on a Dreadful Physics Class and the Wisdom of Children's Literature

Noodle Expert Stacey Ebert tells our readers about the easily accessible excitement of London, how she survived high school physics, and her current career as a multi-hyphenate education professional.

Noodle Expert Stacey Ebert tells our readers about the easily accessible excitement of London, how she survived high school physics, and her current career as a multi-hyphenate education professional.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

Gandhi. I would be interested in philosophy and international relations, compassion for others, human rights, world politics, and activism.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

“You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting…so get on your way!” — Dr. Seuss

Between Disney lyrics, Winnie the Pooh quotations, and Dr. Seuss' whimsical words, there’s a lot of advice packed into children’s learning and entertainment. Whether you believed in pixie dust, a magic feather, or glittery red shoes, lessons and advice were swung at you at every age. Looking to the future was part of the message, and Dr. Seuss not only told me to be myself, but to keep marching on and climb up that mountain. He keeps reminding me of what "The Little Engine That Could" used to tell me — "I think I can." And I will.

Where would you send a student who hasn't traveled before?

London, England. It is filled with learning every which way you look. For an English speaker, it’s a very simple way to embark on an adventure. Cultural opportunities are easy to find and many museums are free to enter. London’s transit opportunities also allow easy access to a vast amount of excitement. Within hours you can cross borders or be in neighboring towns that have so much to offer. Again, because of the language, conversations, lessons, food, and culture are at your fingertips. The journey can be as simple as wandering down the high street, taking in the architecture, phone booths, and accents or ramped up in museums, the theatre district, or walking tours. The world awaits.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

My high school physics class was dreadful. Levers and luminosity, pulleys and periodic tables, vibration and velocity — most of the time the words I uttered were "I don’t understand." Between pre-calculus and physics, what I remember most is being confused, rattled, and altogether feeling like a failure. This was troubling for an honors students used to getting A’s. I survived physics, but only barely. What I learned was that I definitively was not cut out for physics. I could tell you how to do a back flip as a gymnast, but I couldn’t tell you why you rotated at a specific rate or the speed at which your feet would hit the ground. I realized that although there’s not a place for me in the world of physics, I was just as important and valued elsewhere. I learned that I had the power to feel valued and validated and that if I didn’t get that from someone — in the form of a gold star or something else — I could still try to be the best person I could be.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

I went into teaching to try to make a positive difference in the world. At 24 years old, I entered a world of formal education, teaching high school social studies and advising many different school-wide organizations. For most of the fifteen years I was there, it was spectacular. Often teachers never get to know the difference they make in a child’s life, and it is a true gift when you can actually see the impact you have on the world. Within the last five years or so, education has changed. One year ago, I left the world of traditional public education. As standardized evaluations and testing became the crux of a day, semester, and year, the things that I believed to be important in education weren’t quantifiable to state evaluators. Nowhere on their rubric were compassion, creativity, kindness, imagination, or diligence. As test scores and data proliferated the landscape, teaching had changed. Today, I write, advise, consult, event-plan, and work with nonprofits, private clients, students, and organizations, trying to make a positive difference in the world.

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