Finally, school starts up!

At the risk of sounding like a parent who doesn’t enjoy my kids, I have to say that I am so glad to know that school is starting for all three of our kids. It’s been a great summer, but it’s also been a long summer, what with travel and various family issues.
Further, this is a big transition year as our 7yo, G-, is going into first grade this year, so he’s leaving the shimmering, fun world of kindergarten and its play to the first real step on the academic journey towards college and life. He’s anxious about it — though he won’t admit it — and truth be told, I’m anxious about it too.
Among other things, I believe that schools have a hard time with boys…

I’ve been trying to figure out whether my school had a hard time with me as a boy too and, well, yeah, I did have a rather rocky K12 experience when I was younger. Heck, I was kicked out of fifth grade because I was too disruptive. Now I can look back on the experience and realize that it was because I was bored stiff, but that didn’t make it any easier at the time.
Then in high school I was “accidentally” placed in the honors program (I’d been in the MGM or “mentally gifted minors” (ah, the thrilling names bureaucracies have for things!) program in grade school, but they didn’t track it to high school) and then two years later they tried to pull me out of the program and drop me back into regular classes. Fortunately I had a great history teacher, Donald Zimring (aka “Mr. Z”), who lobbied on my behalf, pointing out to the administration that my work was on par with the other honors students. I stayed in for 11th grade, but dropped out of all the honors programs in 12th grade because I needed some new social blood.
School is not as easy a journey as it is portrayed, in my experience, and so much of that isn’t social at all, but rather the incredible difficulty of matching academic challenges with individual students. I know I have very bright kids, and further absolutely expect that it’s going to be a significant challenge to keep them engaged as they go through the years too.
And, yes, I do believe that the energy and passion that boys bring to a classroom makes it harder for traditional educational approaches to be effective. Boys need to run, yell, break things, hit, and none of that is supported or even allowed in school, all in the interest of conformity, of safety, of diluting school down to some sort of social programming project.
Ah well, we’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, first grade looms and I am sincerely hoping that my son does splendidly while having fun and (don’t tell Linda) being just a wee bit disruptive, because it’s boring to fit in too.

5 comments on “Finally, school starts up!

  1. I think your concerns about your son and school are shared by many parents and teachers. (And parents and teachers of girls, too.) As both a teacher and parent I am completely alarmed by the trend toward increasing ‘paper learning’ at younger and younger grades. Creative teachers are having a harder time working their magic as they are pressured to prepare kids for standardized tests. The rhetoric of higher academic standards is used to justify this, but no one is being challenged by this, just bogged down with more boring work. And the reduction of recess time is completely counterproductive. It goes against everything we know about how children learn. I am bothered that not a single major candidate is opposed to the No Child Left Behind Act, which codifies such emphasis on test preparation. Have you expressed your concerns to other parents? A group of vocal, committed parents can really have an influence on a school. Parents can’t take away the pressure of NCLB, but they can work to make sure recess is maintained and classes stay as creative as they can within the current political environment.

  2. David –
    Thank you for the kind words and yes – I do remember you. I wish your 1st grader much success. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know!

  3. I second the comment made by Shrijnana. I, too, am a mom and until recently, had worked in the school system. It’s alarming how much of an emphasis is placed on preparing the kids for standardized testing. It was never this bad when I was in school, and after hearing so many horror stories about the public schools, it makes me wonder if I should just homeschool my son once he’s of school-age. And I do agree that boys have a tougher time of it. Many of them have a learning style that just doesn’t fit in with what the beaurocrats think it should be. Eliminating recess is yet another way to make children fit into a confining box that these beaurocrats, who obviously forgot what it’s like to be a kid, want them to be in.

  4. Education is a subject near and dear to my heart. I worked in early childhood education for a few years until my son was born. My views are similar to those already given. I am amazed that with all the understanding and knowledge we have about children that programs are continually put into place the contradict this knowledge. For this reason we have chosen to homeschool once our son reaches school age. I know that this is not an ideal solution for all families but there are other things to be done.
    One thing you can do for any child is allow him/her the time to run and play after school, I know this doesn’t replace in- school recreation but at least it will provide an outlet. I also agree with Shrijnana about organizing a parent group that can act as a voice for the children. A few ways to be heard are attending school board meetings, most meeting set time aside for an open forum where members of the community can address the entire board. Second, make sure you vote. School board members are elected officials; vote for members that support your views. These elections usually don’t draw a big crowd so a few votes can go a long way. Finally, you can contact state and local government officials about concerns, the more that speak up the more the politicians listen. Imagine what would happen if all the parents and all the teachers who are fed up with the current system were to make their voices heard, the government would have no choice to listen. It may take a while for changes to be made but at least right now you can feel good that you are acting and not just standing idle waiting and hoping someone does something.

  5. i agree with the comments. i pulled my children out of mr z’s school district because not only have they reduced PE to once a week and limited recesses but the schools here in the southern portion of z’s district are utterly overcrowded and the staff has become highly inaccessible. sad, because i grew up in this district myself and there is very little resemblance to what it used to be. i do not blame the no child left behind bill though because that has funded special needs preschools, special needs programs and other things needed. if i had a special needs child i would undoubtably keep them in z’s district because they are fabulous with that particular population (because they don’t pay for it, the federal government ultimately does). but for the bulk of us with average to above average students, public schools just assume to allow those kids to sink or swim. test scores not withstanding, these kids come to blacktops in the morning with 700 other kids (and this is elementary school!). the noise at 7:30am is jarring. some kids want a little peace and quiet first thing in the morning but they are forced into the crowd, to become just another face, like it or not. things are beyond out of control and no tax measure or bond issue is going to be able to even put a bandaid on the problem anymore.

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