While one of my children graduates from high school in a few weeks, my youngest child is in Kindergarten. The difference in their education is tangibly different. When my oldest children started school, we played games like breaking everything down into circles, squares and triangles. My youngest child know the geometric shapes based on the number of sides. “That’s a hexagon. It has two trapezoids inside it.” I played games with the alphabet and street signs with my oldest children. My youngest child sounds out every word he sees and follows up with a discussion of why some sounds are silent.
My youngest child is learning faster. He is taught differently. His classroom has higher expectations. The amount of homework has eliminated the need for workbooks and flashcards that I used with my older children.
The classrooms in the elementary school are technicolor in their diversity compared to the mono-ability classrooms that my oldest child experienced. When my oldest son was in school, I had teachers and parents complaining to me that they didn’t want those kids in their classes. Hiding the children who look, act or learn differently is no longer the norm. Schools are helping build a kinder, more compassionate generation of people than the trolls who comment on newspaper websites. We are building on strengths, both internal and external.
As beautiful as the evolution of elementary education, I am wary of creativity and play being shoved aside in favor of testing training and memorization once children leave elementary school. The future may be wrapped up in science and technology, but creativity and imagination are the seeds of innovation. The strong foundation of elementary school should be the basis for learning problem solving in middle school.
Short sighted people who scream that high schools with the most challenged populations should be closed are taking something important away from the elementary students who are working hard to install the operating systems that will allow them to reach their potential. We need more schools, not less. The well-intentioned NCLB has morphed into a monster that punishes schools and teachers who are struggling with students whose obstacles are overwhelming and life threatening.
Our schools have come a very long way and they continue to change for the better. I look forward to seeing the embracement of potential and feeling of hope that is taking root in elementary schools as it spreads and grows to the teenagers who so desperately need it.