I firmly believe that families and communities set the precedence for and teach the value of education to children. Teachers, in my opinion, can facilitate growth, learning, and even inspire the love of learning in children. I do not, however, think that they can teach a child to value education. Children who have parents who are educated can see how this effects their parents. On some level they understand that what their parents do and have stemmed from their education. Beyond parent's having their own education (as many parents do not), parents and loved ones that surround the child need to show an enthusiasm for school, learning, and education.
My parents, for example, never finished college. Despite not having a degree, they encouraged me to learn. I was asked about my day, had homework help, went to the library, and was taught to behave at school. Going to school was my job. I grew up knowing and believing that education was an essential ingredient to success--my parents taught me that. I knew that I was expected to go to college. Even if I could not afford to go to school, I was taught that their were options and that your education is an investment in your future. A college education is worth the debt. My upbringing taught me that your experience in school is a reflection of the effort you put into it. My mom always told me that she would rather see me get a C in a class that I worked hard in than an A in a "blow-off" class. I took honors classes often knowing that I might not always get the A, but it would be worth the extra effort--the enrichment, the more in depth studies, and the level of critical thinking (well, I know that now at least). In the words of Taylor Mali, "I can make a C+ feel like a congressional medal of honor, and I can make an A- seem like a slap in the face."
I believe the most successful schools are those located in communities where its members value education, and even more importantly set a standard for education. We need to show our children that education is important. We need to model it and reinforce it over and over again. That is why I love the things I have seen this week:
1. I attended a GEBAS meeting (our school's version of the PTA) last night. Not that I needed to see a meeting at Fairview (growing up with my mom and all) to realize this, but it was both encouraging to see parents who cared so much about their children's education and the education of their classmates, and discouraging to see how few parents actually attended (see upcoming post, "teaching involvement?") the meeting. These parent at this meeting showed how important their child's education was to them by becoming a part of the school, understanding and helping problem solve with the school to create a better education/ educational environment for their children. I do wonder, however, if they realize the intangible impact they have (beyond helping support the teachers and school monetarily and with activities...which of course has a huge impact as well).
2. President Obama gave the annual presidential back to school speech today. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/13/remarks-president-barack-obama-prepared-delivery-back-school-speech While I really did not think it was the most inspirational speech I have seen from him (though I did just read it and not watch it which makes a huge difference) and I really think he should have a separate, more appropriate address for elementary age students; the point is that he, in the role of a huge authority figure, is telling kids the importance of getting an education. Here is a great example of reinforcing the value of education to our students:
"But here is what I came to Masterman to tell you: nobody gets to write your destiny but you. Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing – absolutely nothing – is beyond your reach. So long as you’re willing to dream big. So long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education.
That last part is absolutely essential – because an education has never been more important. I’m sure there will be times in the months ahead when you’re staying up late cramming for a test, or dragging yourselves out of bed on a rainy morning, and wondering if it’s all worth it. Let me tell you, there is no question about it. Nothing will have as great an impact on your success in life as your education."
3. The Marvin Lewis Community Fund kicked off their "Learning is Cool" campaign in CPS schools today. http://www.marvinlewis.org/learningiscool.aspx For those of you who do not know, Marvin Lewis is the head coach of the Bengals. This program provides free folders and notebooks to children in CPS schools. Additionally, they provide quarterly incentives for children in CPS schools who make the honor roll, or equivalent of the honor roll. At the end of the year he and the Bengals players host a recognition ceremony at Paul Brown Stadium.
I really like this program because it reinforces the value of education from a pop cultural standpoint. I think it can potentially impact students who might not necessarily care if their parents, teachers or President Obama tell them how important school is. I will, however, say that I think their should be room to measure student growth...not all students, can make the honor roll, but their should be some way to recognize those who have made awesome achievements at their level.
Football players are cool. It is more than just a cultural stereotype--children, especially boys, admire professional athletes. I think this program helps children realize that the players they idolize value education. These people care about their success beyond the field. Plus, any time you attach a big name to something, there is a better chance of drawing media, organizations, and community members' attention. The Bengals have influence in their community and it is nice to see them use their influence to support education.