The moment, I have been dreading is here. The feeling of Déjà vu … the feeling of I have been there …done that…
My granddaughter is starting Kindergarten next week!
She is registered at a local public school, an “A” rated school in one of the “best” school districts in our state. I should be thrilled… instead I am terrified…because, I have been there, I have done the “school thing” with my three daughters, who all went through public schools in the same district. I am not picking on our school district, I am not picking on one school in particular or a specific teacher. I am just worried in general, because this is what I do as an educator, a mother and a grandmother looking at the state of education in general.
I am reminded of Will Richardson when he said:
“If you’re not uncomfortable right now in education, you’re not paying attention.“
And if you have followed this blog over the past ten years or attended any of my conference presentations or workshops, then you know I have been paying close attention. I am uncomfortable…
I know that my granddaughter’s Kindergarten teacher will NOT have the worries of one of her student’s grandmothers on her mind ;)… I know he/she will have enough on his/her plate as he/she needs to attend pre-planning meetings, as he/she needs to get his/her room ready, and get his/her own children ready for their respective schools. I know he/she will need to worry about dealing with IEPs, behavioral issues, paper work, implementing new curriculum packages, school initiatives, etc.. He/she will need to worry about planning for lessons and units based on standards and his/her students’ performances on standardized tests later in the year.
… as a blogger, I am choosing to write about my worries… I need to get this out… So here is a letter to my granddaughter’s Kindergarten teacher.
Dear Elena’s teacher,
I know that you have more important things on your mind than listening to one of your student’s grandmothers. I am sure you have enough underparent, helicopter, lawnmower or tiger parents in this year’s Kindergarten class community. I can just see the rolling of your eyes when yet someone else (a grandmother on top of it) also wants to add her two cents.
Please hear me out though…I hope you have enough passion for children and for learning left, after all the school bureaucracy and paperwork is completed. I hope that you still:
- have the self-motivation of a life long learner, who is never satisfied with the status quo and sees continued learning as part of regular work and life.
- have the restless heart of an adventurer to try new things and step outside of your comfort zones.
- have the spirit of a pioneer who thrives in uncharted territory.
- have the mind of a scientist to push beyond what you can see with your eyes and can imagine theories, articulate theses and find evidence to dispute or confirm them.
- have the soul of a teacher to instill the love for learning and inquiry.
- posses the courage of an innovator to continuously wonder “what if…” and not be afraid to fail as part of the process.
- have the imagination of a storyteller to paint in vivid colors different types of stories and to share these stories with the world.
- possess the curiosity of a researcher to continuously search, test, try, prototype and document our work to contribute to a larger purpose of advancing educational practices.
I am sorry to say that not every teacher I met during my own school years or during my children’s years had the characteristics described above. I am sad to say some did not even possess even one from the list. Please give me the benefit of experience (as an educator and since I have been there… three times over…).
I have seen my own children:
- given photocopied, decade old worksheets (from 1975 !!) merely to keep them busy in class…
- not given a voice, because they were the middle of the pack, not in the high / gifted end, nor on the lower end…
- taught with the same pedagogies (techniques used by teachers to facilitate learning) used in school when their mother (during the 1980s), grandmother (during the 1960s), great-grandmother (during the 1930s) were taught…
- be paralyzed out of fear of failing standardized tests…
- have the love of reading “beaten” out of them by requiring (year after year) of required mandatory reading lists and (unimaginative) reading logs…
- being assigned homework as a way to check off ” the content was presented and taught”…
- cram and memorize and extraordinary amount of information in order to regurgitate the information for a test…
- be frustrated and exhausted by hours and hours of assigned homework as mere busywork… (not three examples, but thirty examples from the “uneven” number column)…
- being refused by a teacher to accept evidence of their learning beyond a one-size-fits-all quiz, test or exam…
- ‘s teacher be more concerned with covering curriculum versus uncovering learning…
- been told they couldn’t learn about something because it was not on the curriculum plans until next months or next year…
My granddaughter will arrive at your door very excited. Please, don’t squish her sense of wonder, her excitement of and for learning (I know it is there, I have watched and observed her closely from the moment she was born). Continue to lay the stepping stones for life long learning her parents and family have started. Help her get started with her formal school years and support her by nurturing and teaching her how to:
- learn how to learn
- become a self directed and self motivated learner
- own her learning
- become literate beyond reading and writing in text format
- communicate beyond an audience of one
- be aware of her own learning process
- make her thinking and learning visible
- actively look for learning opportunities
- recognize learning when she sees it
- capture learning to be able to share in a variety of forms
- reflect on her learning to deepen her experience
- share her learning to connect and contribute to the learning of others
- amplify learning in new ways, inconceivable just a few years back in scope, reach and impact
- be aware of and practice leadership skills that allow her to make a difference in the world
- look beyond her own zip code and look for and respect a global perspective
- ask lots of questions and practice the skills to look for answers beyond traditional media
- be information literate by being able to find, analyze, evaluate, tag, categorize, organize, curate, archive, access, remix and create information
- build herself a network FOR her own learning
- understand and observe digital citizenship and move to digital leadership
- be a producer and contributor, not just a consumer, who takes advantage of media tools and platforms to create, communicate, collaborate, connect and think critically
I know, not a small feat I am asking of you. I hope your commitment to children and your own passion for learning makes you excited about going to school and spending the day with a group of excited five year olds. I hope you will remember that these five year olds, will most likely live to see the 22nd century. It is our job to give them the skills to succeed for whatever is to come.
PS. If you find extra time on your hand to read, give any of these books a chance to push your thinking 😉