I remember during my first year of teaching, I was called down to the office to meet a new student. I think this brought my class number to about 32. They placed her in my class because she didn't know any English, and I knew a little Spanish (at least enough to communicate simple directions). I met her, and her mother and father, who we learned was employed at a local construction company. Linda, our school counselor, served as the translator for us. We shook hands and exchanged smiles, and then the father and Linda had the following conversation (in Spanish):
Father: What time does the school day begin?
Linda: The school day begins at 8:10am.
Father: (opening his wallet) And how much do her books cost?
Linda: Her books? No, her books don't cost any money.
Father: (looking a bit confused) But, how much do I owe for her to go to school here?
Linda: School is free here. It doesn't cost any money.
(Father bursts into tears, shakes all of our hands, saying "thank you, thank you!")
And right then, I changed as a teacher.
I had taken for granted that I live in a country that offers education for all, whether you "belong" to this country or not. If I would like an education, I can have it. It's not like that everywhere in the world.
This was my K-1 class. I was held back (a little too young to thrive in 1st grade) in school. I still remember my teacher, Mrs. Matlock ("A mat on the flow, a lock on the dow!") I love that I went to a "structured school". Maybe that's how I turned out so great?
Oprah and her show about the upcoming documentary, "Waiting for Superman". They showed footage of a lottery drawing for acceptance to a "good" school. I saw parents and kids bursting into desperate tears because they weren't chosen. It was like watching a reversed Reaping from The Hunger Games! Heartbreaking. Granted, the quality of children's education in this country, and who should qualify for that education is a point of debate and discussion right now in our country, but I'm not going to go into that here. I'm not sure what the answer is, do you?
On Friday we got a note home in Boo's Friday folder from a parent, informing us that Boo's Kindergarten teacher has been diagnosed with cancer. It hit close to home, as three of my teaching mentors are breast cancer survivors.
are a family. As teachers, we cried for one another, and covered classes for one another, and every Spring we would celebrate remission together by participating in the Race for the Cure.
Now I find myself on the other side of the school fence as a parent, and my child as the student. Although I am no longer teaching, I still feel a part of a family - a school family. I've been so impressed to see how the parents have rallied around this school to support it, and it's teachers. I volunteer for one hour, every-other-week, but every time I go, I see three or four other parents doing the same thing. They are reading with kids, making photocopies, hanging work on the walls, or setting up a center. It's a wonderful sight to see, and I think it's a wonderful thing for our kids to see as well. We value education. We value their education.
At the beginning of the year, I was disappointed to hear that Kindergarteners didn't have P.E. Boo loves P.E., and although she has recess to run and exercise, I was excited to see her fall in love with a structured P.E. class. A friend of mine told me that apparently there wasn't funding for the P.E. teacher to cover the Kindergarten classes. Then she informed me that one of the kids' parents (who is a former teacher herself) stepped forward and volunteered to come once a week and teach the class P.E.! Last week they got out the parachute. Remember the parachute? It was our all-time favorite! Boo couldn't stop talking about it. That was awesome.
I hope that I'm the kind of parent who supports her child's school and education. Who asks, "how can I help?" I wonder if each person did this, how our classrooms and schools and consequently our childrens' educations would improve.
It would be an interesting experiment, don't you think?