I had a great discussion yesterday with a colleague with whom I share many values. We were lamenting the state of public education and the “failing” schools who are failing because the test scores count for all students, including the ones with a lack of proficient English and those in need of full special education services. We, like so many in our field of education, find these to be great injustices. This conversation went on like so many others, talking in circles about society, social responsibility, immigration, testing, working etc. etc. etc.
We ended our cyclical conversation which I know we will come back to many times and said our goodbyes. Then this morning as I ran round the lake the second time, I passed a mother and her school age (testable age of about 9) son. I was pleased they were exercising and walking together, but horrified to see that instead of engaging in conversation, they were each zoned out to their ipods. In the interest of full disclosure, I too had my ipod on this morning as I ran 15 miles, 9 of which I ran solo. My mind raced with worry for this child. What a perfect opportunity to spend time in conversation with your child, as the summer days are fleeting. A time to bask in the beauty of nature, talk about the upcoming year, talk about baseball or girls or ps3. Of course I do not know the entire story, but my mind was consumed with worry that this child was not engaging in dialogue with his mother.
If he is not having conversations with his mother whilst they exercise, is he talking in school? Is he thinking critically? Is he engaged with his peers or do they all shut themselves up in a white headphoned world?
I think back to those test scores and know deeply that the teacher cannot raise them alone. Educating our children is a two-way street, a partnership in their future. Each adult that is responsible for leading a child to knowledge must play an active role for the child to realize the value of learning. It doesn’t have to mean using high-falutin’ words at dinner or having “geography quiz” on car trips (Thanks, Mom and Dad) or even throwing every technological advance at the child. It is as simple as talking. Talking to our children. Engaging them in things they want to talk about, they need to talk about or they might not observe on their own.
So perhaps, every so often, we turn the ipods and instant messaging off. We take our walks without the ear buds or eat dinner without john stewart or spongebob in the background. For it is in this talking that we will grow and we will teach our children to grow.