What’s Your Back to School Focus?

“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education.

My request is:
Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.”

– An excerpt of a letter written by a Holocaust survivor to educators, published in “Teacher and Child” by Dr. Haim Ginott, child psychologist and author

It is back to school time across the United States. In small towns and big alike, families are adjusting their schedules to accommodate getting kids in cars, or on bikes, or into buses to be delivered to local education institutions by 8 am each morning. What will mom do to help kids be up by 7am and fed and delivered when they themselves need to be at work by 8am? Can dad pick up at 3:15pm during his break? Are their multiple children at multiple sites this year for the first time? Is there a mom? Is there a dad?

sleeping teacher

Back to school presents complexities, and families have a lot of questions to tackle. However, most people rarely inquire about what their school has determined to be the focus of all the time they will serve as the home away from home for our kids. At summer’s end, our kids will again spend about 7 of their awake hours each week day within a system and structure determined by adults other than their family and loved ones. For those of us that are lucky, they will transfer into the hands of educators who treat them like family and support our children in very loving and caring ways. For some children, school is a much more supportive environment than home. For many, school represents a void where they move from subject to subject or class to class fairly invisible to many of their peers and most of their teachers, particularly at the secondary levels (middle and high school).

So amidst the questions involving new clothes, lunch provisions, driving arrangements, adjustment of morning alarms…take time to ask some questions of your school leaders and your children’s teachers about how they are managing methods to develop the individual child in balance with mass efforts to increase academic achievement. How are they working to understand the non-assessed skills and talents a child possesses and setting up systems to provide him/her a sense of accomplishment and place beyond a test score or grade? Whose job is it to know each child? How do they provide each student a sense of belonging or a means to at least establish a critical relationship with one adult on campus they can trust and have access to when needed?

These things are at least important as the number of computers they have, the amount of wireless internet-access available, the food choices at the cafeteria, the loveliness of the new school gym or quad or stadium, or the ease by which drop-offs can occur at the new round-about put in this summer. You do care, so ask the questions.