The First Day of School

Today is a very special day in the Eduflack household.  This morning, the edu-son started kindergarten.  As we walked up North Oak Street toward his elementary school, he was getting a little apprehensive.  For weeks, we had been excited about going to the “hippo school” (the school’s mascot is a purple hippo).  We did a week of “kindergarten orientation” and went last week to meet his new teachers.  But as we walked up the steep hill, I could tell the previous excitement was giving way to some fear about the new.

All those worries evaporated once the edu-son entered his classroom.  Warm hugs from the three teachers who will be manning classroom three this year.  His own hook and cubby to house his new Captain America backpack.  And a seat at the “Lego table” where he immediately started the building process before class even began.
Before this morning, we talked about what the edu-son wanted to learn now that he was in kindergarten.  His expectations were specific and direct.  He wanted to learn to build a robot.  He wanted to learn about outer space, penguins, and sharks.  And he wanted to learn how to make pizza.  After all that, he wanted to learn math.  Sounds like a full academic year.  I just hope his teachers are up for the challenge.
I’ll admit, I was a little misty eyed when I dropped my son off this morning.  He didn’t quite understand what the big deal was (and certainly didn’t know why dad had a tear in his eye).  But as I watched him start his public school career today, I am reminded of a blog post I wrote nearly three years ago, when we brought our daughter home from Guatemala.  At the time, I reflected on my educational hopes and dreams for the edu-daughter (and by extension, my son, who is 18 months older).  
At the time, I laid out 10 tenets for the education I wanted my children to experience.  Three years later, they seem even more appropriate:

What is my vision for my children?  Let me nail Eduflack’s 10 tenets to the electronic wall:

* I want every kid, particularly mine, reading proficient before the start of the fourth grade.  Without reading proficiency, it is near impossible to keep up in the other academic subjects.  And to get there, we need high-quality, academically focused early childhood education offerings for all.

* I want proven-effective instruction, the sort of math, reading, and science teaching that has worked in schools like those in my neighborhood with kids just like mine. 

* I want teachers who understand research and know how to use it.  And I want teachers to be empowered to use that research to provide the specific interventions a specific student may need.

* I want clear and easily accessible state, district, school, and student data.  I want to know how my kids stack up by comparison.

* I want relevant education, providing clear building blocks for future success.  That means strong math and technology classes.  It means courses that provide the soft skills needed to succeed in both college and career through interesting instruction.  And it means art and music right alongside math and reading.

* I want national standards, so if my family relocates (as mine did many times when I was a child), I am guaranteed the same high-quality education regardless of the state’s capitol.

* I want educational options, be they charter schools or magnet schools, after-school or summer enrichment programs.  And these options should be available for all kids, not just those struggling to keep up.

* I want schools that encourage bilingual education, without stigmatizing those students for whom English is a second language.  Our nation is changing, and our approach to English instruction must change too.

* I want a high-quality, effective teacher in every classroom.  Teaching is really, really hard.  Not everyone is cut out for it.  We need the best educators in the classroom, and we need to properly reward them for their performance.

* I want access to postsecondary education for all.  If a student graduates from high school and meets national performance standards, they should gain access to an institution of higher education.  And if they can’t afford it, we have a collective obligation to provide the aid, grants, and work study to ensure that no student is denied college because of finances.

   
As we all experience the start of the new school year, aren’t these tenets that we should expect from all of our schools?   

2 thoughts on “The First Day of School

  1. I appreciate and concur with the list of expectations for schools, and hope most would agree. I also can relate to the personal emotions you were so kind to share – I had the same feeling 20+ years ago when I walked my daughter into her K classroom. Hopefully, you and many other parents will do what I did then, and you are certainly suggesting in your post – demand improvements in the current system and keep demanding until we have the system your expectations require. You see, it was when I walked into that classroom with my daughter that I realized while my child was safe and cared for – at least at the moment, our education system was not going where it needed to prepare students to succeed in today’s world. I then made a pledge to myself, I would do everything I could to make sure the system was transformed, to have the schools, instruction, and enviroment to prepare students for a challenging yet exciting information driven world. In far too many places we were and continue to a long way from that vision, so I have not stop pushing for “reforms” and will not until the transformation is complete. Unfortunately, I am still fighting because we to have far too many students who are not receiving the education they need and deserve. We must also realize, the system will simply not change itself. I have 20 years in and counting, and have witnessed small, incremental changes. So, I hope you and all of the other parents out there experiencing what you did recently with your child entering that first classroom, promise to do the same as I did two decades ago, because it will take all of us to make the changes happen.There are just far too many people with a vested interest in keeping the system as it is, and I can assure you they will fight change in every which way – just look at the history of education the past 30 years. They will make all sorts of claims, accuse you of attacking poor teachers, call you elitists and much worse, and pretty much do whatever is necessary to turn back any change. They will repeatedly tell you why things you suggest cannot be done, without offering alternatives, and will try to convince you, your ideas and observations are off-base. But, for the sake of your sons and daughters, don’t give up – their future, our future depends on our education system finally catching up to this century. All the best to edu-son, may he gain the love of learning and have all of the opportunities he needs to foster that love.

  2. I am still fighting because we to have far too many students who are not receiving the education they need and deserve. We must also realize, the system will simply not change itself. I have 20 years in and counting, and have witnessed small, incremental changes. So, I hope you and all of the other parents out there experiencing what you did recently with your child entering that first classroom, promise to do the same as I did two decades ago, because it will take all of us to make the changes happen.

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