My name is Anne Perrah, and I have been invited to tell you a little about myself. So I thought I might tell you some of the things about myself that I'd like to know about you if we were ever to meet face to face -- about the place you feel most at home, what things you are most curious about or interested in about the world, and about how you like to spend your time. I'd also want to know if you have any ideas so far about what you'd like to do with your life. I'd want to hear the questions you'd like most to have answered about life, and I'd be fascinated to know how you think you might make a difference in the world. That's just for starters, and I'll begin, as I said, with me.
Who am I?
I was born in rural Iowa -- "Flatland," I liked to call it. My heritage is Danish, second generation American [my birth name was Skow, which means "woods" or "forest"]. I spent my early years in the Great Lakes area of the Midwest. My favorite childhood memories are of the few years I spent on a small dairy farm in Illinois, where I went to an honest-to-goodness one-room school house! Thirty-five miles from the nearest town, a winter power outage meant that we might be on our own for days or even weeks, 'till the snow plows could get out that far. But I think that early experience, up close and personal to the natural world, shaped my life, in a number of ways. I feel most at home outdoors, and I am happiest being, in the words of John Muir, "anywhere that's wild."
I got married right out of high school, as was often the way in the place and time I came from. My husband worked the night shift (11 PM to 7 AM) at the Steel Mill in Gary, Indiana. People sometimes call that the "graveyard" shift. Just about the only entertainment we could afford was the local library, but that suited me just fine, because along the way I had fallen in love with books and learning. I used to put my baby girl in the buggy and walk the three miles to the library, stuff books all the way around her in the buggy and walk back home. And it was a book from that library that changed my life forever.
That life-changing book was by Dr. Maria Montessori. In it, this innovative Italian physician stated her belief that children are innately intelligent and innately good, and deserved profound respect; Dr. Montessori went on to describe her way of teaching children, a method that was, let's just say, considerably different from the way I had been raised and taught. [For one example, I am left-handed, and I was slapped with a ruler by a teacher when I was caught writing with my left hand in penmanship class]. I began reading everything I could about this remarkable woman and her "Montessori Method."
Then came my family's move to Southern California, where I encountered my first real mountains, and once I handled my fear of heights, I was in love again. For me, one of the most incredible places on Earth has to be the Yosemite. In fact, I think a person could spend a lifetime exploring just California, and never run out of beautiful places. Give me a backpack for a couple books and some trail mix, and I am one happy camper! But beyond the natural beauty, I found opportunity. The streets weren't paved with gold, but I learned that I could go back to school, and also there were Montessori schools here for my children [eventually two girls and two boys!] and for myself: I took the special training to become a Montessori teacher.
Over the years I have earned a degree in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor's in Fine Art (another of my passions!), a Master's in Education, and a Master's in Mythological Studies. These days I'm working on a Ph.D., which is a Doctorate in Mythological Studies. I think this qualifies me as a Perpetual Student! Put differently, I think of myself as a student of life. I write poetry, music and stories; I love hearing and telling stories. I have a pretty active imagination, and I am interested in just about everything [some qualifications, mind you!]. Along the way, I also started my own private Montessori school, in which I have been teaching children for some thirty-five years. I think it is important to keep on learning as long as we're alive; the fact that one is still learning may be part of the true definition of being alive! I think it makes one a more interesting teacher, to stay interested in the process. My own school's motto is from John Muir: "Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." That's the way I try to teach.
Questions about Life
In the things I said I'd like to know about you, I listed wondering what might be the questions you'd most like to have answered about life. So, I'll tell you some of mine. So far, the two most important questions I have found for a person to ask and answer for him or herself are these: "Who are you?" and "What do you want?" I think if a person can deeply consider those two questions, much of the rest of the stuff of life pretty much falls in place. [In case you'd like to know of a good place to explore those two questions, there is a Sci-Fi series created by J. Michael Straczynski called "Babylon 5" that does a better job of it than just about anybody else I know of].
The Big Question that I've been exploring in my doctoral studies is this: How do children discern or decide what it means to be a human being? I have pretty much devoted my life to children -- because they are lot more fun to be around than grown-ups who take life too materially, and most importantly, because I know that children are the future -- and therefore I think that dealing honestly with this question is vital to a viable future for the human species. And I think that for people who have a passion for it, teaching can be a great way to make a difference.
To round out this informal introduction to myself, I'll tell you that I am now a grandmother of four -- two girls and two boys! My children and grandchildren are scattered around California, and one of these years, after the Ph.D., I might think about retiring from classroom teaching and go on the road, with my stories and poetry and music. Like to climb Mt. Whitney again. Might finish the movie screenplay I'm working on about some children who mysteriously disappear in a sudden storm one night -- but that's another story...!
21 June 2002
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