The following article was in The Globe and Mail on August 31. I have written about this topic on a couple of occasions in the past few years. I thought the article would be of interest as we begin the 2012/13 school year.
Often in this space I will write about things students say to me that make me smile and remind me why teaching is such a rewarding, memorable and humourous profession. Yesterday during the grade 1 drop in I met one of the new grade 2 boys who was accompanying his sister and his parents. He said hi, and then looked up and said, “You have the same sandals as my Dad.” An interesting first day observation between a student and a principal.
This morning, I came in from recess, and walked into the grade 1B classroom to deliver a couple of birthday cards. The students were getting ready for their first KCS French lesson. One of the grade 1 girls looks up at me and says, “You’re cute.” I’m fairly certain that I have never had that said about me in my twenty years in education. However, if you know my wife Heather’s email address, please feel free to pass this information on to her. See you around the school.
Head of School
Do your kids ask this?
Long ago I used to think therein lay the foe that I would slay as an educator. It was asked simply because schools hadn’t yet found a way to make learning enticing enough. While I continue my quest to make it as inviting as possible (you get more bees with honey after all), I have surrendered to the fact that it’s really hard to beat the happiness of holidays. I burst with joy when I hear children say that they miss school when away, but have stopped torturing myself when not all relish it as much.
So, while neither I nor anyone else has made school the quintessential “place to be” for all children, my career-long efforts have at least given me a response to the question of why children have to go to school. At least, this is what I think the response should be.
- To acquire knowledge needed to understand the world and as fodder for our thinking.
- To develop skills that allow us to share our understanding and thinking.
- To learn how to learn (for it must never end).
- To learn how to get along and work with many others, including people not of our choosing.
- To learn how to struggle, even fail, and get back up again.
- To learn that our actions matter in the world, and to proceed with care.
- To learn who we are by facing challenge and temptation.
- To acquire abilities and dispositions that matter in life – curiosity, empathy, persistence, adaptability, leadership and more – so we can wisely navigate our own path to happiness.
It may be hard to beat summer holiday, and I’m glad children have it. Without a doubt, children also learn a lot of value over the summer, not to mention all other occasions outside of school. But more learning must be done while young, much more, and that is what schools are for. Or should be.
I have a clear answer for my sons’ question. I’m left, however, asking my own.
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.
This article was first published in SNAP Etobicoke, August 2012.