Summer Vacation is a great time to get away and relax and LEARN. Watching my three children interact with our friends and total strangers reminds me of how valuable these trips really are. Sure we are getting that ever so important family time that I would hate to miss, but I'm also reminded about how much they gain from the things we expose them to. It's this exposure to life events that also helps them grow into well rounded members of society.
My children have thrived in school settings, they have had amazing teachers and for that I am grateful. We work with our kids and my wife has instilled in them a real love of reading. My children's passion for learning is fueled by the experiences they have had in life. This also points out the divide that bothers me between those that have and those that don't.
You see, the problem is that many of the students that I work with in my school district simply do not have access to a lot of things my kids and others are able to experience. I've thought a lot about how to close the gap between students of various income levels in education for years. Education and schools are the keys to saving our students raised in poverty. It is our responsibility to fight to show all students their true potential. This is not an easy task, but one we cannot ignore.
Students learn from all that they experience, both good and bad. They learn from books and other resources in school also. What we need to remember in education is that our students do not all come to us on a level playing field. We know they all have to take the same standardized tests but their backgrounds and life experiences are vastly different. This impacts them on so many levels, and we must do what we can to close the gap.
Social interaction is a large factor that relies on varied experiences to shape behavior and skills to work with others. In many classrooms students are not allowed to interact and miss out on a key method of learning because we want to be sure we guide their learning to what is important in our minds. Ignoring the benefits of students interacting with other students can be problematic on several fronts. Behavior problems cannot be addressed by muting students. It only exasperates the problems. This is an opportunity to work with students on how to properly work with others, and may be the only time our students have to learn the expected behavior in public. Us working with them in a positive manner is invaluable.
The other area I will touch on is the simple fact that learning opportunities are everywhere. If a student is not exposed they simply miss out on the things other students may be getting. This basic lack of background and connective knowledge puts students in a difficult situation. Things we take for granted and assume students know, may also be the things that cause them to feel uncomfortable or dumb around their peers. We must do what we can to make sure we work to help students close this gap.
I only touch on the basic dynamics of things here, but I hope that as we start another year with students we work to create a classroom that opens students eyes to the potential they have in the world today. I hope that we can create a spark that fuels a fire in all students to see how education can work for them. I hope educators remember that students need them as they try to figure out the world around them. This goes far beyond the standards the state says are most important. It's a difficult challenge, but are you going to take advantage of the power of the world to teach, rather than solely focusing on the textbook. I'd like to think that preparing students for the world will also get them ready for whatever test they have to take, rather than the other way around.
I know a lot more about crabs now then I did before this trip. A lot more now than I ever learned in a classroom. I wonder how I could bring that same experience back to the students in my school district? My passion and enthusiasm is probably a good starting point... good luck this year and remember to think about basic life knowledge that some of your students do not have as you shape your lessons. The extra though you put into that might be the key to opening up the world to a student. You truly do save lives.