Wednesday, January 9, 2019

100%


So I’m back at school full time and all the metaphors—like a fish in water riding a bicycle with pants that still fit—all ring true. I was born to teach children and it continues to sustain, refresh, astonish and delight. And adults too. Though I’m leaning toward naming a date where I might finally cut the cord to the school where I’ve worked for 44 years, I’ll never be “retired.” Just a teacher working wherever I’m invited.

But meanwhile, school is still home and I even went to a Staff Meeting my first day back! The highlight of the meeting was someone reporting that an outside consultant was astonished because current parents, alumni parents and even parents who left the school for one reason or another were all interviewed and 100% of them gave the same answer to one of the questions. 100%! Think about getting 100% of a random group of people in any room answering any question— not likely! 

Before revealing the question, I ask you: Would you want 100% of a school’s parent body to agree on? That the school prepared their children for high school? For doing well on standardized tests? That the school had up-to-date technology? That the school had a dress code and behavior policy that it enforced meticulously? That the school had an amazing art’s program? (Well, I'm partial to that!)

The question asked and the answers given were precisely the ones that makes me so damn proud of my 44-year (and more to come) association with the school. Here it is:

“Does the school care about and care for children?”

100% said, “Yes.”

How many schools can ask that question and get that response? How many advertisers? How many manufacturers of kids’ toys? How many food industry institutions? How many entertainment industries? I would like to think 100%. But not yet.

Amidst all the hoopla about test-scores, STEM, STEAM, Design-Thinking, Behavior Management or the latest edu-wind to blow through the buildings, it all comes down to genuine care for children and their deepest needs. Not their imagined “wants,” not our imagined wants for them, not what makes money and gives prestige and wins prizes. The child's deepest needs, which all point back to the most fundamental need—somebody cares about this child. And if that somebody is every teacher in the school and everyone at the front desk and everyone working on the grounds, that’s a lot of care and not an ounce of it is ever wasted on a child. They’ll need it all to sustain them through the turbulence of childhood and the storms ahead.

It’s the right question.

And yes—100% yes—is the right answer. 

PS I once read about a child psychologist who asked his kid patients, "Who loves you?" And more often than any of us would hope to hear, was given this heartbreaking answer: "I don't know."

Let's make our families and schools and neighborhoods places that genuinely care for children, so that if any of them were asked the same question, their answer would be: "How much time do you have?"

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