One week ago today I reported back to work after summer break. This was really the first summer I have “taken off” in what seems like forever. I use the phrase “taken off” very loosely because did spend a few days planning and teaching but the vast majority of my time was spent with my 5 year olds during their last summer before they started “big kid school”, and let me say for the record, it was time well spent.
My kids, Max and Molly, are twins who have been in daycare since infancy. Because my wife and I both work, after the maternity leave was over, our 8 week olds began having someone else take care of them. It was difficult to accept that we might not be the biggest influence in their lives but, truly, we were just glad to have help. Our family had doubled in the course of a day and, this being our first child/children, we weren’t really prepared for the torture that sleep deprivation brings. So, off they went to Tutor time and thus began their (and our) educational experiences. After about four months we moved them to the YMCA daycare center. It was a great move for them and us and we’ve been advocates of the center ever since.
When we took them out of the Y I remember talking to their last teacher who assured me that “they’ll be fine in kindergarten”. They are well behaved, intelligent, sensitive and curious and they “thirst for information”. Needless to say, I’m proud of them.
A few weeks ago I took them for their kindergarten screening so they could be evaluated as to their kindergarten readiness. I wasn’t surprised when I was told that they were ready. They had been to summer school in the same building in a jumpstart to kindergarten program, been in childcare their entire lives and had always been interested in learning. (Go figure since their dad is a teacher.)
At the end of the screening I talked to both of the teachers who had worked with them and they had passed with flying colors. Again, I wasn’t surprised but I was still haunted by the phrase, “they’ll be fine.” This may make me a “high-maintenance parent”, but I don’t want them to be “fine”. I want them to be challenged. I want them to learn to ask questions. I want them to learn how to problem solve. Now I’m not suggesting that they won’t be. But, in my limited elementary experience, I see far more time spent on learning how to walk in a line and be quiet and behave. While these are all important skills and I understand that they must be included, especially as students start their educational journey, it concerns me that the things that I find so charming about them (their songs, made up stories and, well…. spirit) will be unacceptable in the classroom. Yes, they need to learn when and where different behavior is appropriate, but, for me, “fine” isn’t good enough. Like all parents I want my kids to change the world. Who knows, they just might. It’s just hard to be a teacher when you’re kids are in school.
Finally, let me be clear, I think that their school and their teachers are AWESOME!!!! Under no circumstances do I want to be misunderstood. I’m proud of where they are and I’m excited for their future and I wouldn’t change that for anything. But… more than anything, I question the educational process as a whole. I do believe in public education, but I also understand what it’s like to be a teacher and trying to help all students. Now I’m learning what it’s like to be a parent of a student in the current educational landscape and it’s not a comfortable place for me right now. Truly, I hope that I don’t get comfortable. I want to help my kids and all the students that I work with to be challenged, ask meaningful questions and learn how to problem solve.
Is it really OK for us to make sure our students are “fine” or should we strive for something greater than that? I know my answer. What’s yours?