Thursday, January 5, 2017

What my kids have learned from going to an “F” school!

Tonight, just for fun, I asked my youngest daughter (4th grade) if she had to give her school a grade what would she give it.   “An A+!” she said enthusiastically!!  When I asked her why, she said, “The teachers are awesome and we get to do lots of cool stuff!”  Then I told her some people think her school is an F!  “Those people are dumb. Have they even been there?” she replied.  Unfortunately, the answer is probably not.

Making Friends Around The World!
Several years ago, my kids switched schools away from a wonderful campus and began a new experience in a much different, yet equally wonderful school environment.  We had moved and I wanted them in the same school district in which I worked.  At the time my oldest daughter was in third grade and my son was in first.  Now, I will admit, they were coming to a school that was quite different than the one they left.  For one thing, over half the students at their new school were what our state labels “economically disadvantaged”.  This was a new experience because my kids had been quite sheltered and quite frankly, never been around kids that didn’t have just about everything they wanted.  I will never forget my son coming home the first week and telling us about his new friend.  “He doesn’t speak English, but he is really good at math and building stuff” he excitedly told us.  I remember telling him to learn all the Spanish you can 
from him because one day you may need it.  My son is in middle school this year, and more often than not when I ask him who he sat with at lunch, that same first grade friend is one of the kids he mentions.  

The truth is, I couldn’t have asked for a better school experience for my kids despite the fact that my 6th and 8th graders go to a middle school that got a “D” on the just released “rough draft” accountability ratings from the state and my 4th grade daughter’s school got an “F” in one of the categories.  They have had some of the best teachers I have seen anywhere, and I should know, I have spent the last 22 years of my life in schools of all shapes and sizes.  They have been challenged and they have grown and learned more than I could ever imagine.  

It is hard for me to believe that those with very limited knowledge of schools could have the audacity to create a system that they can’t even explain and give grades without providing promised support. If a teacher did that to his/her class we would consider it poor instruction at best and gross negligence at worst.  If you think I am being overly dramatic, you didn’t spend the last two days like I did talking to principals and educators and trying to explain that places they put their heart and souls into were deemed not good enough.

Enough politics.  My real point in writing is that I am thankful for some of the things my kids have learned in these so-called failing schools.  Our District and schools strive to provide a dynamic learning experience and that is exactly what they have done.  My kids learned to dance.  Yep.  No one in my family can dance a lick, but when your friends are part of the after school dance club that is so popular that they have one for every grade, you sign up and show your stuff!  They learned to read and 
debate.   Have you ever seen a “Battle of the Books” competition? It is intense.  You have to read and work as a team to determine your answers as you compete against other teams. They have

been in plays.  They have built robots. They have learned to solve a Rubik’s cube. Learned to play chess. My daughter was a magician in a talent show. My son and his friends traveled to a global problem solving completion for Destination Imagination. My oldest was part of a team that placed second in a STEM competition at Bell Helicopter and she writes her own blog. They have collected things for Angel Tree gifts and later realized it was for friends at their school. They have been so lucky to have the care and guidance of so many wonderful educators. This is not a bragging list about my kids, it is meant to point out that NONE of the things above (and countless others) would they have ever experienced without their schools. 

What they have learned in school I couldn’t have taught them. 

Next year my oldest will start high school and all three of my kids will be at schools that received a “D” or worse from the state.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.