Monday, September 12, 2011

The first week - and those who don't go

The first week of school has flown by. I am going to work hard at actually recording my reflections more often, both on the blog and on paper in my day book /lesson plans), and there are lots of things that I can reflect upon, like:
  • the students taking the initiative to ask me to be the student council rep (I was the fourth teacher they approached. I know I won't be able to do it all by myself and I probably am going to have to choose between student council and yearbook. How do you choose?)
  • the kindergartens taking charge in their second drama-dance lesson with me (They punched my life-sized Grinch in the face because he was sitting in my rocking chair, and when I couldn't find the book I was going to read, they said that the Grinch took it and wouldn't give it back unless we all danced. We danced but I still couldn't find the book so instead I "winged it" with an activity on playing with toys and finding the "right voice" for them that was much more successful than the original plan.)
  • students already "invading" the library to read books and do homework together with their friends, even though book exchange officially begins Monday
Instead of expanding on any of those thoughts, I wanted to spend time considering those kids who chose not to leave home to go to school that first week ... because they are being home-schooled. Be forewarned that the opinions expressed here are those of the writer (me) and do not necessarily reflect those of my school or school board. Heck, they may not even reflect rational thought with a fully educated grasp of the issue. Still, when has that ever stopped someone on the Internet from spouting off?

I have to admit it - I have had (and probably still have) a bit of a bias against families that choose not to enroll their children in either private or public schools. I felt it was like an insult to me and other teachers - "we don't need you, we can do this ourselves". I also worried that it undermined public education and the funds that go to support it. Why spend so much of the provincial budget on something regular folks can do on their own? I wondered how it would be possible for home-schooled children to have similarly enriching learning experiences without a large group of peers, a fully equipped gym or a certified music teacher. Most of the people I knew that chose the home-school route did so because their particular religion clashed a bit with mainstream education or because their child/ren has special education needs that were neglected by their local schools. A few years back, one of my favourite kindergarten students, a clever, highly intelligent young girl, left our school because her parents decided she would get more out of learning via home school - I felt disappointed, because she was such a delight to converse with and the other students and I would be denied her company. 

Recently, I've reconnected with that girl's parents. They are still fantastic people - wise, fascinating to talk to, witty and super-nice. Their girl is thriving, not suffering, by getting her education at home. I still miss getting to learn from her - she taught me a great lesson about "appropriate books" and individual children when she was in JK - but I fear she might've been bored in class if she were still with us. That's not a knock against our wonderful school staff. It's just that, for the first time, I could agree with a home-schooling decision.

Melanie McBride, in a different context, has recommended that people "go to the places that scare them" and try/read/do things they wouldn't usually try/read/do. For me, subscribing to this blog is one of those out-of-character gestures. The Innovative Educator blog writes a lot about "unschooling" and is a big supporter of it. Sometimes I read the posts and I get angry - is school and the school system such a horrible, terrible, worthless monstrosity of a creature? I realize my reaction occurs because I'm a teacher and I have a lot of personal identity tied up with schools. My own children attend public school in a different school board than I work in and I do not consider myself an inferior parent because I choose to send my children to school instead of instructing them myself. Occasionally, there are posts that make me think instead of react and those are the ones that remind me why I still subscribe to the blog. Maybe it's as my mother says: "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar".

So, although I still sigh a bit when I hear about people opting out of public education, I think my hard stance is softening a bit. I complain about the school system and I'm not ready to give up on it yet, but I'm becoming more open minded about the choices people make for their children's education.

1 comment:

  1. I'm commenting to myself because I need to calm down a bit after reading a post on the Innovative Educator about how "you [teachers] hurt our children". The hyperbole used by the author (e.g. "you dehydrate them, you starve them") really upset and annoyed me. The writer lumped all teachers in as one homogenous pile of evil. The article that initiated this diatribe, by Ron Clark, was just as aggravating (because I'm a parent, and if there's a concern I do it in a polite manner, not because I'm out to get the teacher). *sigh* I'll go on Twitter and listen in on my students talk.