Wednesday, August 11, 2010

resistance is futile

My girls started back to school Monday.  Kelsey takes on second grade and Katie is officially a freshman at Southside High School.  Both had a good first day.  Both of course came home with their first day stories.   Both eagerly anticipate the future.

Both girls had a slow time getting to sleep the night before.   It brought back memories for me.  I had a different kind of experience with public education.  I am very glad that they are not experiencing what I experienced.  So far, they've had great - caring teachers.  Thank you God!

I know I'm an old geezer, but how long ago did they start doing orientation for high school kids?  They even give kids a school map and let them know who there teachers are going to be prior to first day of class.  In my day we used to have to walk 150 miles to school and didn't get orientation, a map, and a list of teachers prior to the first day.  We took first day point blank and liked it - and liked it good!  Things sure have changed over the years.

The kids didn't spend many of their Summer days at home.  They spent much of them at the office.  I believe though that this was a better Summer for them than the past few.  Gina got on the calendar before school let out and made sure she planned lots of out of office experiences for them.  Limited by finances, we were still able to take a few extra days off from the clinic and treat ourselves to an extended weekend vacation in Chattanooga.  It was fast but fun.

Our Summer burned as fast as a match.  Kelsey (7) kept asking how many days were left till school started.  The last two weeks became a quick countdown to the inevitable.  When the day came, Kelsey jumped in with both feet.  Katie (14) dived in bravely.  Katie loves to read, but we told her that her pleasure reading will have to take the back seat to her studies.  Did I say Katie loves to read?  She spent most of her Summer reading - that's what she enjoys the most.  I am glad that she's like she is.  I remember those countless trips to the library when she was a little thing.  I remember all those books she had to read each week through the Accelerated Reader program.  She had to read so many books that I was concerned that she would grow up avoiding books altogehter.  Not so.
School starts for all of us.  Homework.  One of my roles as a father is to help with homework.  For those of you out there who know me a little - might find this a bit amusing.  The old albatross caught up with me.  I don't recall doing much homework when I was a kid.  I still blame it on the cat.  It's not that I wasn't a willing kid, I just got lost somewhere along the way.  There was a point in my early education that I got so overwhelmed and flustered that I gave up...or shut down...one or the other.   Confidence 0 - Bleeding Ulcer 12.  So my job as a dad is to make sure that what happened to me doesn't happen to them.  So far so good.

School for the most part is about herding and testing.  Past junior high, I don't recall a teacher that tried to teach anything.  Math was the worse.  A teacher would lay down a principle once, and the student was supposed to be able to simply pick the idea up the first time.  I remember in tenth grade Algebra, having asked a teacher to show me again how it worked - and she said I was own my own.  She didn't have time to individually show me how to do it.  I was somehow supposed figure it out and catch up.  Well, I never figured it out and never caught up.  C'est la vie.

So as a homework helper, I do my best when it comes to anything that you have to add-subtract-multiply-divide and conquer.  When it comes to Algebra - we have sprung for and will continue to spring for math tutors for our children.

There is no running from school.  Schooling is a continuous process throughout life.  Maybe not in a building, maybe not by teachers, maybe not with chalkboards - but soon and for the rest of your life.  If we stop learning we stop growing.  If we stop growing we stop living.  I believe that most of education really takes place outside of classrooms and beyond the institution.  Educators should be equipping students with the tools to learn.  It's up to the student to apply them.

Before Gina (my wife). I don't recall ever being taught me how to study.   That was a power tool that I wasn't simply wasn't given as a  kid.   Unfortunately I acquired it later in life - and to yet  to great advantage.  My educator brother mentioned once that anyone can get through schooling, "if they are willing to do the work".  

Every parent worth his or her salt must be a home-school teacher of sorts.  So off to school and home to work.  Discipline isn't taught in school, it's acquired at home.  Studying must be taught.  Half-assed effort will get you half-assed results.  The taskmaster motto at our house is 'homework FIRST'.   "AwwwW-But Dad!"  I once thought that I was through with school, but education is a never ending process.  Resistance is futile.  How many times have I sat with my child doing homework thinking "OH THE IRONY!".

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