What Really Happens in School

Well I’m an axe grinder Piledriver
Mother says that I never never mind her
Got no brains I’m insane
Teacher says that I’m one big pain
I’m like a laser 6-streamin’ razor
I got a mouth like an alligator
I want it louder
More power
I’m gonna rock ya till it strikes the hour

[CHORUS 1:]
Bang your head! Metal Health’ll drive you mad
Band your head! Metal Health’ll drive you mad
Metal Health– Quiet Riot 

My children go to one of them high falutin’ fancy private schools where we pay a boatload of money so that little Johnny and Sally can receive a better education than they would in a public school. We do it because education is of paramount importance. We do it because no matter what happens to you in life your education cannot be taken from you.

I make a point of being around the school. The teachers and administrators know me by name. Parents of the other students know me and my children know that I am an active participant in their education. Not just because I show up at school but because I am involved with their homework too.

But I am not involved solely because it is a private school. I am involved because I believe that a parent is obligated to help their children with their education. I am involved because I think that a school that doesn’t have an active parent teacher association is on a path to failure.

There is nothing profound about that. Most children would rather play than work, that is not a secret. Active participation by parents helps to minimize the amount of screwing around that goes on versus learning.

So I do what I can to be around and to be involved. And I make a point to always attend events like the open house we went to last night. I like Open House because you see concrete examples of the learning that has been taking place. Art work, science projects and more are on display. In some respects I prefer it to parent/teacher conferences.

I prefer it because at the Open House you gain more insight into the progress of all of the students. You get a chance to see what the teacher has been doing with everyone as well as your child. There is merit in that.

Don’t get me wrong, conferences are important. I like your child, but I love my child more. So I want the individual report. I want to hear first hand from the teacher about their strengths and weaknesses. But I never forget that teachers have to protect themselves too. So I sometimes wonder what they intentionally omit from the conference.

Open house helps to shed some additional light on things. It is not perfect. I don’t expect to learn what really happens in school from it, but I do expect to learn a little bit more about it.

And I really do enjoy visiting the art/science fair to see which students actually did the work versus those that received special help from adults. Because let’s be honest about it, some of the more sophisticated projects weren’t done by an 8/9 year old. They weren’t done by the 12 year-olds either.

That is not to say that you won’t find the exceptional student who can do it, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Vote for Me For Third Grade Student Council

Just a few short hours ago I helped write a campaign speech for a young and promising politician. He hasn’t been corrupted by power or lost his belief in his ability to help people. He has exceptional ideas and an enormous amount of energy.

He is a bit nervous because it is his first time throwing his hat into the ring. And more than a little frustrated that I didn’t share his anxiety about whether he can carry the vote of the handball players and the kissing girls. But I have faith in my candidate. He comes from good stock and he is quickly learning how to spin a yarn as fast as his old man can.

If I had my way he’d open up his speech by asking for more Cowbell but unfortunately that is not an option this time around. Really, I love that line Bruce Dickinson has, “I put my pants on one leg at a time. Except when I have my pants on, I make gold records.”

Anyway, if you haven’t figured it out yet that kid I sometimes refer to as “Little Jack” is running for Third Grade Representative and I couldn’t be prouder. He is a bit shy and reserved. Most of the time he prefers not to be the center of attention. His teachers routinely say that he knows the material but that it is rare to seem him raise his hand to answer questions.

A far cry from his old man who was never afraid to answer questions or get in trouble in class. I wouldn’t mind if he crept a bit farther out of the shell and participated more. With any luck he’ll skip the getting in trouble part.

This election business is serious stuff, but not quite like this. And that is a good thing which leads into the more serious part of the post.

I believe in teaching children how to lose and how to fail. These are basic coping skills. Some parents have a problem with this and lend an inordinate amount of help to their children. I won’t speculate on the reasons why, but I know from experience that certain science projects and student council campaigns are run with a sophistication that doesn’t come from a young child.

It is a real problem and one that I know is not limited solely to the school my children go too. I remember it from my days as a student and have heard similar remarks from parents of students at other schools.

There is no doubt that I want my children to succeed. I want them to win at whatever they do. I want them to be popular and loved and all that kind of crap. But I won’t force the issue. I won’t create a monster and that is what happens.

Little Jack has friends who are over indulged. Unless something changes these kids are going to get the crap whacked out of them. I don’t necessarily mean this literally, but life has a way of smacking you in the teeth. If you have never been allowed to taste your own blood or feel the sting how are you going to deal with it.

Because that is reality. Out in the real world there are situations that are beyond our control. Our children are going to be placed in situations that require immediate decisions. Mine aren’t going to freeze because they have never had to live without mommy’s assistance.

This isn’t tough love. This isn’t about saying that parents shouldn’t help. I won’t swing from one extreme to the other. The kids know that they can always come to their parents. It is important, critical that they understand that when I say I will take the bullet for them I mean it.

At the same time they also know that there are limits that they have to work with. They know that though they can always come to me I expect them to try to figure out a solution. I won’t cripple them by taking all of the hits.

Anyway, most of my work tonight was spent in providing a little guidance and feedback for the speech. A little direction that said that you need an introduction, a body and a conclusion. A few minutes typing because it was late and he needed to get to bed.

Later this week I’ll find out whether to congratulate him on a victory or to tell him how pleased I am that he tried. I really don’t know which way it will go and I don’t care. I am just proud that he decided to take a risk and expose himself. That little boy isn’t quite so little anymore.

Think I’ll take a moment to watch him sleep because something tells me that I’ll blink and he’ll be all growed up.