First day working with a class of kindergarteners and 1st graders and I am doing one-on-one assessments of reading sight words, knowledge of numerals, shapes, colors. I am struck by the poise and confidence of some of the students who can write their answers without hesitation, by the ones who misspell a word and catch their error when they read it back to themselves (those silent terminal e’s that lengthen vowel sounds are tricky). At the same time, there are some who grope for their answers with some uncertainty, as if they are unfamiliar. What makes the difference in these examples?
Preparation at home, conscious or otherwise, that demonstrates commitment to their child’s education is part of it. Perhaps some parents think the bulk of their work is done when their child walks in those schoolhouse doors. Sadly, that’s when the work really starts, when the teachers and librarians and other kids expand their exposure to all kinds of new knowledge in a new environment, purpose-built for learning. Teachers can only do so much with 20+ children and can use the support that a dedicated one-on-one parent/child relationship provides.
Children are in school 6 hours or so per day out of the 24. Consider than in those 6 school hours, children will eat lunch, have recess, engage in some other enrichment (music, art, health & fitness). That might leave only 4 hours or less of classroom time. They are capable of learning every minute they’re awake. So what happens in the 18 hours they’re not in school is at least as important as those focused and planned hours. Every child should have a family structure that treats learning as a lifelong activity and knowledge as a tool for understanding the world and one’s place in it. Too often we blame the schools for the failings of the larger society, for it’s inability or unwillingness to value each person within its care. Both society and the schools are ours to make to our requirements.