Last week, however, a rumor started circulating in the community that the start date of school was being pushed back from the Tuesday after Labor Day, our traditional 1st day, to sometime the end of September, even sometime in October.
I wasn't too concerned when I first heard the rumors, knowing I'd heard nothing official from school yet.
But the excitement of the rumor got me to thinking. Is it realistic to think students are excited at the prospect of going back to school? Sure, for some, it is the social aspect of school which sparks their interest and draws them into the anticipation of that first day. The opportunity to see friends they've not seen all summer, new school clothes and supplies, new classes and teachers will lure some of them into the anticipation.
However, for other students, is school really something to look forward to?
If you were a struggling student, one who works consistently below grade level, always overwhelmed by the work, the material itself, the quantity of work, the expectations.... would you be excited to return to those hallowed halls?
If you were returning to school wearing the same worn out hand-me-downs that didn't fit last year, and fit even less this year, knowing your classmates would be showing up with name brand logos splashed across their chests, new sneakers squeaking on their feet, and bookbags full of cool new school stuff while yours hangs empty from a broken strap, would you be excited to meet that new teacher?
If you had spent much of last year sitting in the hall or office, kicked out of class for your misunderstood actions, your unsquelchable enthusiasm, would you be looking forward to more of the same again this year?
If you spent last school year being teased, bullied and tormented, despite the fact you get good grades, wear all the right clothes, and follow the rules, would you be in such a hurry to don those new clothes that first day?
How can we, as educators, make school someplace ALL STUDENTS want to return to?
The solutions seems easy to me:
- Make schools safe for all learners. Create curriculums that engage and excited all students at all levels. Stop focusing on test prep and turning the page, and find ways to let students be responsible for their own learning paths.
- Work to provide additional services to our students, counseling, medical, clothing, food, hygiene, whatever it takes to help them fit in. Realize that school is not just about the curriculum, but about creating citizens of our society.
- Welcome them all with open arms, come they dirty, poor, obnoxious, smart, slow, athletic, clumsy, fat, fit, popular, nerdy.... Make a special spot for each student, each type of child, at our table of learning.