Run Zane, run!

Sir Ken Robinson’s talk entitled “Do schools kill creativity?” may be old news to many, but I just discovered it today via this place. I think I love this man. Or, at least his message.

I’m almost always angsty in regard to my children’s schooling. I think, wonder, question, ponder, imagine and pray (sometimes in that order and sometimes in the reverse order) about it nine days out of 10. I’d guess that this intense preoccupation is deeply rooted in my own schooling experiences, but maybe not. Whatever the case, I think about it a lot. I desperately want my children to have a positive schooling experience. That sounds so generic and vague but it (“positive”) truly is what I mean—in the biggest, best sense of the word. Of course I want them to learn stuff, but I’m passionate (again with the overused and thusly generic sounding word) about them learning about themselves as created, creative beings and learning how to think and learning to love learning and acquiring and nurturing internal resources that will both allow and spur them on to be the best versions of themselves possible. Oh my, I feel a preachy, esoteric fight song coming on.

Presently, our six-year-old son attends first grade at a local private Christian school. It’s been fine. A bit costly and fine. It’s not perfect and I don’t expect to find a perfect school. Duh. We’re trying to “take it one year at a time” as many parents say and we are glad that in this day and age (and state) there are so many great schooling options.

This darling, beloved, love-him-so-much-I-can-hardly-stand-it son of mine talks almost all the time. If he’s thinking it, he’s saying it. I think it would drive even Jesus himself bats. We’re trying to help him with this way in which he relates to life and processes information as we don’t want the poor child to drive everyone around him bats. It occurred to me this evening, as I listened to Sir Ken’s speech, that perhaps I should be helping dear son learn how to be an amazing orator, speaking with authority since he so loves to do it. He also loves to run. He can run quite fast and for a suprisingly long time. We recently made a path around the back half of our property (1.4 acres) for him to run. He enjoys it, but still likes to go to a park or track where he can just run sraight and fast and flat out for, like I said, a fairly shocking length of time. It’s like he just comes alive when he gets to runrunrunrunrun. So what is second grade at the Christian School he attends known for? Sittin’ down and shuttin’ up. Hmmm.

So, what say you about elementary education?

13 thoughts on “Run Zane, run!

  1. Karen

    We just entered this crazy realm this year with our 5 year old. She LOVES kindergarten but who know when it comes to 1st grade. She goes to one of the best public elementary schools in the county and we are happy right now. The high school she is zoned for has a terrible reputation (gangs, fights, drugs, terrible teachers) so we look toward that with dread. But, like you said there are so many options. I know so many people that homeschool and have the resources to do that but I don’t think that would be a good fit for her at this point.
    We are taking it one year at a time to see what her interests are and how they grow. If we need to we will try for a magnet school that suits her interests.

  2. leoskeo

    I have a 12, almost 13 year old that has not stopped talking since he was 2. I have adopted 4 lines in my communication with him in this order.

    For those moments when all strength is not gone yet… “I am listening son.” Here I stop whatever I am doing, turn off the TV, radio if we are driving, computer if we are at home.

    “If you wait X amount of time to tell me this I will be able to stop and listen.”

    I cannot listen right now because… but I really want to hear what you are saying. Can you remember this for later?

    Hey, it is time to quit talking. I love to listen to you but for you to take all the moments an fill them with words… Can’t happen and since I don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you to shut-up you will have to be quiet now for the next few minutes.

    He now will say… Dad is this a good time to tell you…? To which 90% of the time I say yes.

    This has been difficult to establish but in reality it has made him a better communicator by helping him choose words rather than choose to fill silence with words. It makes him a better listener. He will often say back to me without even knowing..I am listening.

    By the way. If he is not talking he is singing.

    We home schooled both till the girl hit jr. high school and went charter. No she is in public High and she has a zillion friends, gets straight A’s and is bringing her friends to church.

    He is charter/home where he takes classes then does his work at home. He is getting a’s and b’s and loves the drama class.

    June the great charter school is just in Roseville… not far from where you are.

  3. Linda

    I have a daughter that has sung since before she was 2. She sang all the time. She just had music spilling out of her. I was very concerned about this in early elementary school but an amazing, gifted teacher told me to be very careful not to turn off her voice. She said it was a gift that would grow and is obviously a very important part of who my daughter is. She placed her in the classroom next to a lively comedic boy who had 3 older brothers, so he was used to “tuning out” noise. (My daughter sang to herself, even during math tests…) They became great partners in school.
    Today my daughter is doing well in college, lives in a co-op dorm where she is known for singing (as well as baking 23 loaves of bread every Sunday night…but that’s another story) and is just wrapping up her senior year at Stanford, managed to complete a Chemistry major before realizing that she really belonged on stage, singing…

    My son really needed to get outside and run when he would get too antsy in early elementary school. He had a very understanding and experienced teacher that would let him run a lap around the playground if he couldn’t sit still in class. He would come back more focused. I would definitely talk to the teacher about the need for running in his day. My son is now running for cross country in high school.

    In retrospect, I think we all knew a lot about ourselves when we were 6 years old.

  4. Sharolyn

    Part of my Masters thesis was comparing two units of teaching with my fifth graders. During one unit (Native Americans) we ONLY read the text book, answered end-of-section questions, etc. During the other unit, we learned and performed a musical play on the 13 Colonies. Based on pre- and post-tests, you’ll never guess from which unit they acquired more knowledge (kidding) – the musical. (28 out of 32) It was hard to do… use the exact same number of minutes – and the former is SO not my style of teaching.
    The school I am teaching at currently has a “Discovery” program that my own children will soon be in. There’s not one definition of it, but for example you would never see the desks in rows… always in table groups for group work. You would never see a basil reader… rather books marked with post-its with “life connections”, “word to learn”, “unanswered question”, etc. Along with learning equations, students are always drawing number patterns and estimating, etc. I even swiped some materials to teach algebra because there was a balance scale that could weigh (for example) 3x + 5 = 2x + 8. Another example is that one student described infinity as “the nestle quik rabbit holding a box of nestle quik… holding a box, holding a box. etc) I love it. Sociallly, Community circle is a big emphasis.
    In my core I believe there is always a creative way to teach something. Yet, a teacher only has so many hours in her day to prepare and assess. A program like this takes a LOT of parent involvement and administrative support to pull off. My boss’ favorite philosophical quote (educationally) is “Communities get the kind of schools they deserve.” Most of the broad range of programs with which I have interacted (including a biligual program with mostly white kids speaking Spanish) are great, but also I know that not every program is for every child (even the great ones). You can always find a student at either end of the spectrum to prove that a program or teacher is great or terrible.
    It is hard to think or read with up to 30 other people in the room talking, so eventually a classroom does have to be quiet. (To which my teacher friends would laugh, because I’m not known for a quiet classroom.)
    Obviously I could type about this for a long time, so I’ll stop now. Zane is bound to succeed given your great dedication to him. Parents are always a child’s primary educators, so power to ya!

  5. Sharolyn

    How come sometimes my hyperlinks work, and sometimes they don’t, despite the same method of application? Can anyone teach me that?!

    You can run a few laps first if you need to.

  6. michael lee

    [quote comment="139987"]How come sometimes my hyperlinks work, and sometimes they don’t, despite the same method of application? Can anyone teach me that?!

    You can run a few laps first if you need to.[/quote]

    Yup. Because something you’re doing is different. Computers are dumb machines, and they only do exactly what you tell them to do. Just like children.

  7. June Post author

    Sharolyn,
    I was hoping that you, the teacher that hangs out here, would comment. Thanks!
    Presently, (for next year) I’m leaning towards a program offered through the public school system in our county called Placer Independent Home Study Program. It appears to be a great blend of public, private and home-schooling. We’ll see. My parents have always said that a child’s “success” at school is based on parental involvement, not the type of schooling itself…which is what you said is well in your comment about Zane’s success being bound to our dedication. Thanks for that.

    Leoskeo,
    I’m sure I’ll adopt some of your phrases when dealing with my dear talker. Isn’t is amazing how just hearing someone talk can exhaust you? I find that amazing. Also, how do you know where I live?! That freaked me out a little. Heh.

    Linda,
    I just really like the phrase “the need for running in his day.” It’s motto-worthy!

    I’m not sure why I feel compelled to respond to everyone individually. That’s probably not blognorm.

    Of course it’s valid to pray and think through what will be best (per se) for Zane, but when I step back, it’s just insane to think of all he has going for him relative to the zillion other children in the world. Go buy a goat everyone!

  8. Sharolyn

    Now that I am teaching classroom music, I occasionally have home-schooled kids who come to my weekly classes. For example, if a third grader is being home-schooled by a parent who doesn’t feel qualified to teach music (or just wants more or group exposure), they can just look at my schedule and find a time I am teaching third grade, and that child can join in with that class. (They can do the same with science and PE as we have those specialists as well.) And by “that child may join in”, I mean that somewhere it is coordinated with the district home-school liason or whoever, they don’t just drop their kid off at my door! :)

    So, blend away! There are so many possibilities.

  9. Gretchen

    I am, but haven’t been full time in the classroom for a couple of years.

    I was teaching one day a week last year, 2nd grade in a public school of an “at risk” district. I was floored with how boring “they” have made school.

    My teaching experience of 6+ years had been at a private school, where, though we were limited in many areas-special needs, lack of money (no state funding), we also had a lot of freedoms. We had curriculum, but were very encouraged to make lessons our own. We also had an art teacher, music teacher, computer teacher, pe teacher and Spanish teacher to help us.

    In public school I felt all the fun and creativity had been leached out of school, focusing only on math and reading, and even those were quite boring, as the test score became the ultimate goal. Such “standards” not only make a teacher’s job difficult, being a creative teacher, an inspiring teacher, a teacher who meets different learning styles and levels became almost impossible. I was grateful to only work one day a week, because I then had the rest of the week to work on making every ounce that I could “get away with” of amplifying the curriculum count. I know that not every school district and school in CA is this way. As I said it was a listed district that had not met the standards of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements, and not for lack of great teachers.

    Parent participation makes an incredible difference. I could not have done half of the units or special activities in my full time classroom had I not had parents with time and willing spirits. It made me more aware of the kind of parent I want to be for Sophia and Josiah.

    We do know our children the best. I enjoyed parents who were willing to partner with me, not just come and say “this is who my child is, how are you, individually, going to meet his/her every educational and creative need?” Yes, I had both types of parents.

    I have met many homeschooling parents now, who have created unbelievable experiences for their children. I am inspired by them. I have not yet decided what I want to do in 3 years time (whoa). But I do believe the classroom can be a wonderful learning environment as well. The teacher makes a huge difference. The support of the administration makes a huge difference. The parents make the biggest difference of all.

  10. June Post author

    Gretchen,
    Thanks for your insight! I so appreciate hearing from a teacher’s perspective. It’s probably good that I don’t live near you or Sharolyn, or I’d be picking your brains in a most peristent and annoying manner I’m sure.

    I was a little surprised when Zane’s teacher announced at teacher-parent night in September that she was “partnering with us” this year. I now understand what she means, but I didn’t foresee the level of parental involvement that is required to enable a “good education” for my children. I’m willing and able (enough)…just didn’t see it coming. And being that Zane attends a private school and we pay dearly (funny isn’t it: we pay dearly and yet I know the teachers aren’t paid much and the school has next to no “extras” such as you described, Gretchen. Sigh.) I sometimes tire of the endless requests on my time and pocketbook in addition to regular tuition. But, I do understand. It’s just getting to the point that if I’m going to spend a good portion of each day driving to the school, being at the school, teaching at the school, teaching the schoolwork to Zane at home and paying for tuition, school supplies, milk cards, field trips, fundraisers, (oh yes, and helping with those too) and on and on and on…then I might as well go the independent home study route. (Do ya’ll know what this is? It’s amazing. Or, so it seems.) This is what I find myself thinking and then I always think: “June, you suck!….who cares what it means for YOU? What’s the best FOR ZANE?!” So yeah, still figuring that out.

    I’d be interested in hearing Gretchen and Sharolyn’s thoughts on No Child Left Behind. As I understand it (which isn’t well), I’m not impressed with the premise at all. But, I don’t know much. I just hear crazy expecations being described…the kinds of things that seem impossible to achieve to the point of ludicrousness. Is that a word? Perhaps I was left behind. Did anyone read those books? I’m a little ADD tonight. Candy canes and coffee candy canes and coffee candy canes…

    (See, Zane comes by his energetic ways naturally!)

  11. Gretchen

    You always make me laugh June. :) Yes, I read those books (and think of them each time someone mentions NCLB) up to like number 5 until I realized, “good Lord, how many of these are there”?

    June I totally agree with and validate your feelings. I struggled with the feeling that we were not providing a $5000 education at our school, especially when the public schools, in the city my school was in, were really excellent. I saw so many families struggling to make ends meet and keep their kids in our school, while constantly being asked to donate more, give more, spend more. Most of them really wanted to have their kids in a Christian environment, and so it was worth it for them.

    The fact that you care so much about Zane individually and how he’s doing and achieving shows me how involved you are in his life already. You, June, individually do not have to be the one and only super mom who attends and works at all the events. Many of my parents weren’t able to participate during the day, or attend field trips etc. because of work obligations (you know, to PAY for all those great school experiences), yet, their involvement at home was apparent in that their kids were completing tasks, practicing their reading (1st grade for me), and coming to school ready for the new day. There are different levels of “involvement”, and it all counts. Hang in there. Kindergarten through second (at least) are heavy involvement years. As Zane becomes more independent in his learning, your job will become different- and although your involvement will still be needed, you’ll enjoy watching him discover things on his own. It will come just in time for Nate to start needing all your energy and time in HIS school. :)

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