With all of the backlash against Common Core, much of our dialogue about our local schools has consisted of common complaints. However, with all the well-deserved scrutiny that Common Core has received lately, there still seems to be a large gaping hole in our dialogue about our local schools. In a desperate attempt to rally against the ills of the current system, many of us are forgetting all the good, and all that we have to be grateful for, when it comes to our local schools.
I’m grateful that my elementary-aged son has met wonderful, sensitive, smart and engaging teachers and staff that generally care about whether he has a smile on his face, or not. When I see him get off the bus at the end of the day and he is smiling, I know that somewhere along the way, a teacher inspired that smile. I’m grateful that the administrators in my son’s school district see technology as a way to motivate learning and differentiate instruction, rather than as a new necessary evil.
My son’s school recently hosted “Meet the iPad” night, where staff helped teach parents about the applications on their children’s iPads. One such application help students take ownership of their schoolwork by submitting work and receiving feedback quickly and directly from their teachers. Other apps provide interactive reading material on the child’s specific reading level with high-interest, child friendly topics. I’m grateful for this engaging new technology and for the administrators and staff that were not only there that night, but were really “present” and ready and willing to engage enthusiastically with parents. I’m grateful that my son voluntarily, and “just-for-fun” plays an app on his school-issued iPad that teaches him how to “code” and another one that helps him learn Presidential facts. I’m grateful that my son’s classroom teacher has fostered a welcoming and engaging environment that he enjoys every day. He also looks forward to all of his “specials” and even likes the more mundane and non-academic aspects of the day, including school-bought lunches, recess, and bus-rides. This means that he feels that he is part of a community, not just a school. So, I’m grateful for all of the staff and parents that make our children feel that they are part of a cohesive community.
No school is perfect, and no community is perfect. But, I am certainly grateful that the children in my son’s school district are able to go to school every day in a place that values not just test scores, but also social, emotional and character development. They get to go to school in a place that is not afraid of the word, “fun.” They are learning to be real citizens in a community that values diversity, culture, empathy, individual talents and passions. They learn to feel successful and reach their potential in a happy and healthy way.
The American dream may have changed over time and become a bit more liberated. Yet, still, at its core the dream is that sense of having the freedom to celebrate our own individualism while engaging in a thriving community. This is what our schools help our children achieve. So, as we serve the turkey (or tofu) and cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, I will try to remember the gratitude that I feel towards what is really the heart of our community: our local schools. I’ll try to remember all of the common gratitude that our ancestors have had for decades and centuries, and I’ll say thank you.