BY E.M. FORTIER
I see a lot of people on social media and elsewhere fretting about “what does it mean that the kids aren’t in school?” and worried that somehow the standardized tests will be skewed to lower scores due to it. Having been through more years of school and standardized tests than I care to remember, this idea of weeks of school being just “gone” from the school year is certainly foreign. But being home with the kids has forced me to evaluate academia and what school really means in the larger picture. I think back to some of the teachers who made the most difference in my life and what it really came down to is that their greatest success was two-fold – 1) making the student realize his or her value as a person and their ability to change the world, regardless of who they are intellectually and 2) encouraging within each student the desire to learn.
I joked the other day that we could refer to this break from school as the “Newton break” and hope for the best – referring to the fact that Sir Isaac Newton made fantastic discoveries in the area of science when sent home from Cambridge during a plague. But it is true. There is a blessing in all of it.
There is a blessing in watching my preschooler riveted by the daily video interactions her teacher sends her. The look of sheer amazement on her face that HER teacher is on the iPad – she’s cooler than even that Ryan’s Toy Review kid who is also on devices everywhere!!
There is a blessing in my son talking about how he misses his favorite teacher from years ago and helping her 2nd grade students each Monday; so he has decided to help his 5 y/o sister with a Pre-K/Kindergarten math workbook. He amazes me every day with how fantastically different he is than his dad and me – he loves math and science in a way I truly can’t make my mind work. Yesterday, he watched a lecture on the brain and memory – it had the rest of the crew asking why they had to give up the TV and suffer hearing such BORING!!! Material, but he was enraptured.
There is a blessing in my middle child who has the patience of Job and the steady determination to work through most things – even when tears are flowing she doesn’t surrender. Her mantra has long been – I just need to work hard enough to get to nursing school so I can be a nurse for really sick babies.
Not one of them is the same as the other. Not one of them is the same as their father or me or anyone else in our families. But they are all filled with their own beautiful desire, and reasons for that desire, to learn.
When we look to thank teachers for what they do, let us thank them for what we have seen these weeks at home – that desire to learn . . . To learn to help, to learn to understand, to learn to be productive, to learn to mean what you say & say what you mean, to learn to focus, to learn to communicate . . . We can all continue to encourage these desires and, when they get back to their formal education, they will no doubt be able to pick up where they left off. The forty-something year-old student, returning to college decades after their last formal class ended, was no less able to pick up than the 18 year-old fresh from 12 years of primary and secondary education.
Thank you to all the teachers, coaches, parents, friends, relatives and mentors who encourage that desire, who lead us to our own learning.