There are different rituals for different families at this season of the year. When I was little, I got a new pair of shoes and a new “outfit”. My brothers got new “clothes” because, as they explained to me with a sneer, boys don’t wear “outfits” after the age of two.
Mom took her six kids to K-Mart and we each picked out a notebook and pencils and crayons and a ruler and a pencil box to keep it all in. That was pretty much it.
We were pretty much ready to go back to school. Twenty years later, it was pretty much the same when I got my sons ready to go back to school. But now, twenty years past that, I wonder if “pretty much ready” is enough.
Is there something else a parent can do to prepare the kids for a successful year?
Yesterday I was on a distinguished panel. The title of the conference was on the banner above our heads: A Penny Saved – How School Districts Can Tighten Their Belts and Serve Kids Better.
I know when I’m being set up.
But I also know when I’ve been given an opportunity. I’m a fairly noisy teacher, and I don’t get asked to formal things like this often (at least I don’t get asked twice.) Just as well. I find that distinguished people are very polite even when they disagree with you. This audience was very polite and listened quietly, taking notes. Something that can be painfully unnerving to a 6th grade teacher.
The forum sponsors sent me research papers in advance that dealt with lists of ways school districts could save pennies like turning down the thermostats or firing teachers or charging families bigger fees for sports or music or AP classes.
I was supposed to react to their suggestions and offer my own about how we could “tighten our belts” and “serve kids better.”
It is a heady thing to be asked to give your opinion. Into a microphone. With people taking notes. In seven minutes. Or less.
I am not a researcher. I am an excellent, professional, obviously humble 6th grade teacher from Utah. I have opinions on everything. And in this hearing room, with PhDs from Stanford and authors on best practices and researchers and statisticians, I had seven minutes to have folks understand, from the perspective of a practitioner, the opportunities and challenges and dangers of Closing the Achievement Gap between white children and children of other colors.
Would this audience understand we’re not talking about a test score? Would they understand that to define something as mind-blowingly complex as the achievement of a human-type child to a standardized test, you narrow what it means to teach and what it means to learn.
I was once on some talk show in Florida where a reporter said: Don’t you think you’re being a little hypocritical as a teacher being against tests.