Monday, May 4, 2009

Education fascination

Today on my way to work I was behind a Head Start school bus for a few minutes.  The driver stopped at one house, and the little boy that came out with his mother was literally dragging her behind him across the yard, running as much as possible while still attached to his mom’s hand, so eager to get on that bus and go to “school.” 

Young children almost without fail have such an excitement for school and for learning itself.  Then, by the time they are a few years in, so many of them profess to hate school.  Why is that?  Is it peer pressure – kids are not “supposed” to like school?  I know from experience that kids who actually LIKE being at school are ridiculed for that feeling.  Is it the teachers, making learning boring and tedious instead of interesting?  Is it other kids being mean, bullies, cliques, lunchroom rules? 

My daughter was thrilled to be starting kindergarten when she was five.  In our school system, the kids come to school and register, meet their teachers, bring the purchased school supplies, see their classroom, and have a small test (repeated at the end of the year to measure progress) two weeks before school actually starts for them.  When she found out there was another two week wait for “real” school to start, Emma actually cried.  She loved her homework and was proud to show it to me every week. 

Now, in fifth grade and middle school, I can’t keep up with which teacher matches which subject, what she has first, second, third period, even exactly how many classes in the day she actually has.  I know she has the early lunch, but not what exact time.  I see her homework after it’s been turned in and graded, things she could have done much better on if she had only brought it to us and asked for help instead of saying “I didn’t understand” a week later in her Friday folder.  Luckily she is still a good student overall, but she did have two Cs on her report card this year that she could easily have avoided if she had only been more open with us.
Some of the fault lies with us, her parents.  By the time we pick her up after work and get home it is a rush to make dinner, feed the animals, and make sure she gets showered and ready for bed on time.  She does her homework at the babysitter’s house, and over the years we’ve come to rely on her to make sure Emma has everything done. But, she is not Emma’s parent, we are.

But where did the EXCITEMENT go?  I know she loves learning; just yesterday she was performing virtual brain surgery and analyzing an accident scene on a website her science teacher introduced to the class.  But put any of that in the school setting, and she loses interest.

How do we get all of our kids excited about education again?  These are our future congressmen, senators, presidents, teachers, scientists, doctors, nurses.  If they don’t care about learning now, what will happen when they are in charge?

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