Dr. Misty Ferguson has been an educator for over twenty years here in the US and around the world. Whether teaching English to preschoolers or training English teachers, her passion has always been to inspire students to love learning by bringing joy into the classroom. She has a B.S. in English Education, a M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language, a PhD in Culture, Literary, and Language, a Texas teacher certification, and three little boys who teach her something new every day.
I have been a teacher since I was twenty years old. What’s a little strange about that fact is that I hated school as a child, even though I did well. I begged my parents to homeschool me because I found school a shocking waste of time. ‘Why am I in a potty line when I don’t have to go?’ I’d ask. ‘Why do I have to do another worksheet when I get it already?’ I just couldn’t get over all the time I spent not learning in school.
But, because I love learning (and asking questions) I love teaching. I believe that intellectual expansion when coupled with humility and compassion is hope. And to that hope I’ve given most of my life, doing my best to protect learning from the mechanisms of formal schooling in my classrooms. When I had my first child, I worried that I wouldn’t successfully find a balance between my seventy hour work-weeks as a high school English teacher and his childhood. I made the difficult decision to leave full-time teaching and return to graduate school, where I studied and taught part-time while having two more kids. Five and a half years later, I finished my PhD and was ready to follow some interesting leads for a future in research and teacher training, but, first, I needed to determine where to place my son for kindergarten.
After three years in a nature-based preschool, he had already fallen in love with the natural world, animals, and freedom. As his mother, I knew he would wilt at the desk; as a researcher who had studied playful teaching and learning, I had witnessed what happens when children are happy at school and encouraged to follow their own questions. Another major priority to me was reading instruction; it has to both follow the science we know about how the brain reads in order to make the new neural connections fruitful and embrace joy to nurture a reading-love which begets fluency.
After weeks of visiting schools, I came up dry. ‘Start your own school,’ my spouse said. ‘You’re already imagining it.’ Then the pandemic happened and attending a kindergarten was a moot point anyway. Suddenly, my vision of outdoor education beyond preschool was more than a novel idea. It was an obvious necessity, so we’ve started The Unschool of San Antonio, my dream of what learning is when we trust the brilliance of childhood and the warmth of family.
We are embracing the poetic language that educational researchers use to talk about the ‘way it should be’ and attempting to make it ‘the way it is here,’ in our two acre backyard, for our kids and for yours, if you’ll join us. I know that it will make all the difference and that they are totally worth it.