Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On School Supplies

Stores all over our area have been busy touting the sale of school supplies already beginning in July. It matters not what type of store--they all get on the school supply bandwagon. Of course, what many of them think of as "incredible sales" and what I think of that way have no relationship. School supply selling is just one more item in the calendar of seasonal sales, and it's big business at that.

But with all the hoopla about this season's must have back pack or rollaway, with all the stress on having just the right pen or notebook or folder, we've lost sight of the most important item that needs to be "purchased" and "packed" for school--attitude.

It's not what shiny new items you bring with you to class that will determine your success in school; it's how you mentally and emotionally view school. View school as something that you have to do and if you just take a deep breath and plog on you will persevere until you can be freed again in June and you're going to have a self-fulfilling prophecy of a year--you'll be miserable for 9 months but then freedom will beckon. If that's the attitude then all the fancy crayons, all the multi-hued markers in the world are just thrown out money.

Where can you "buy" the right attitude? Sorry, it's not sold in the stores but is strictly home-made. For younger students and yes, even some older students, that attitude is a family project. When a family is planning a trip to somewhere, excited talk permeates the house. There is wondering about what will be seen/done on the trip. There is anticipation that the trip will be a great experience. Smiles break out at the thought of the treats to come. Now mention that school is starting in a few weeks and watch the faces fall all around the table. The same sense of excitement that a trip to Orlando and elsewhere generates is obviously absent.

For many, there is the attitude that school is a type of forced work. All that is required is to keep remembering that this, too, shall pass. Many a parent that has commiserated with his or her children about the onset of school. Many a parent who's approach is to say that school is something we have to do, are forced to do, so just go and try and find something good there. Something good there? As if school is some great garbage pile in which there might, just might be a buried treasure somewhere?

I seem to be an oddity--I love being in a classroom. Taking courses for me is all about possibility and delight. Even with the strangest of teachers and the most esoteric of subject matter, I always manage to find items that delight me, that catch my imagination, that get me thinking. Yes, even in the most boring of lectures I always manage to find at least one nugget of gold. But that may be because I expect that those nuggets will be there, and I go in like a prospector with a pick axe and determination. And yes, like a prospector, I dream that I might stumble upon a vein of exposed gold laying open before me, or a cache of diamonds strewn on the ground where I can easily pick them up. And like that same prospector I understand that those exposed veins and those diamonds just laying there are not the norm but the exception. Prospecting for gold or for rare gems takes work, a whole lot of sweat equity. And it also takes time.

I've tried to instill in my own children a love for the process of learning. School is not a prison--serve your time, slog through and they'll give you freedom at the end. School is that pristine mountain range just ripe for exploration and discovery. Those peaks are filled with treasures to discover. But I've also tried to teach the practical: it takes work and effort to bring those treasures to light. You know that old saw: Rome wasn't built in a day. Well, obtaining an education doesn't happen in one day either. It's a long process, sometimes hard, but the end results are more than worth it.

So please, while you are being busy with buying school supplies, take some time, a lot of time, in laying the foundation for success in school for your kids. Work on establishing the right attitude towards school. Sparkle and smile and wax poetic if need be about the possibilities that await your children in the new school year. Remind them, and yourself as well, that anything worth having is worth working/fighting for. And an education is definitely something worth having.

This year make sure that a positive attitude gets packed before you fill up your child's backpack with what are really non-essentials. It's not which pen goes into that pack that will determine how good a school year your child will have--it's all about the right attitude.


Lion of Zion said...

good point. i've seen someone comment that the worst thing about all the grumbling by parents that our schools stink, tuition is a waste, etc. is that kids hear this and imbibe negative attitudes about school.

but on the grumbling front, i don't think most schools themselves really go out of their way to present education as being exciting. they are not really geared toward being that "pristine mountain range just ripe for exploration and discovery." most schools are designed with the expectation that every kid will learn the exact same thing and in the exact same manner (and subsequently spit it back exactly the same way on a test that often doesn't measure anything other than the ability of rote memorization of soon-to-be-forgotten material).

i was looking at the website of a jewish montessiori school recently. i'm not sure if i'd be on board for all that "fluff," but at least here kids really are exploring and discovering.

(and i think the problem is magnified ten-fold in the limude kodesh department)

welcome back

ProfK said...

Re the schools not making education an exciting adventure, all the more reason for parents to step in and do so. Yes, it would be nice if ALL schools were to be magical places, enticing our children through the doorways. But if your school does not do that for your child that's no excuse for a parent to sit back and do nothing.