Some have a belief that school is not real- that real life begins only upon graduation- I wonder, in today’s age of fast pacing and career switching, how any could still suggest that the place students are expected to spend at least 12 years of their lives is not “real”. A microcosm perhaps, but nevertheless, very real in the social-cultural, and physical-material sense. And is school an audition? another idea that appears to be floating – No. School is the way in which the majority of children are socialized and when the fit is right- children thrive- when wrong the blisters not only burst but chafe so deeply the right space might still feel too constricting.
While homeschooling may provide an answer and is increasingly an option for those who have the time to devote to not only searching out places that will provide stimulation and feed the curiousity of the learners ( museums, art spaces, public performances, lunch time forums, construction sites, people watching ..) for the majority a school- regardless if private or public, remains the full time space where one’s children attend to daily rituals of practice- practicing communication skills, practicing public participation, practicing organizational skills, practicing physical skills, practicing the give and take of learning- practicing.
And it is the curriculum that determines what gets practiced. April is when many parents begin to question the past year’s choice of schooling and wonder if new arrangements ought to be made for the following September. Things I encourage parents to look for in a school when touring a new space go beyond the basics- not just the physical structure and the size of the rooms, but importantly the sounds one hears when walking the halls; are the sounds coming from the classrooms representative of students’ voices? Do the walls feature student work? Is there an energy even outside the grounds? For elementary students, what appears to be happening during lunch time recess? For junior high school students, are the activities/clubs posted of the type your child may express interest in joining? In a Senior High students should be visible- activities are ongoing and classes more individualized- visit at more than one point during the day and notice how students move about…
School is the “real world” for students while they are moving through it; help them understand and appreciate how growth in any direction can require a new fitting, and believe in them when they are ready to practice something new.