Wednesday, August 21, 2013

School Daze (Slight Return)

Like most adults, I enjoy learning even if I don't always appreciate being taught. 

Those of us with children at home all summer get a chance starting this time next week to appreciate the sounds of silence as here in Norwich and across the region, the new school year begins. The rhyme and reason for a late summer start to the school year probably can be traced all the way back to agrarian society when all hands were needed in the fields, for planting, for growing and for harvesting. 

Book learning was important, it was good to have someone read the family Bible together after supper,and having someone who could do their figures in the ledger and more than make their mark when we went to market was very important but the farm and the family came first (No, I'm not wearing bib overalls as I wrote that but thanks for the visual).

We are different from the people who tamed this continent, felled its forests and harvested its bounty for ourselves. We had closer ties to one another, perhaps, and a different interpretation of the word 'community.' But the more things change.... 

Earlier this month, in the city where I live in Connecticut the Norwich Human Services "Back Pack It To School" volunteers and the programs they work with were doing what they could to help families with a little less still have a little more when the first school bell rings. 

 They collected and distributed supplies and other school items for about 850 Norwich children in all grades who'll be riding the buses or waiting at the intersection for the crosswalk guard to signal them as our nearly 4,000 children across the city leave the bricks and hit the books. 

For a lot of us, aside from the City budget deliberations in the spring, this is about the only time all year we think about the cost of education and, I'd hope, its worth and value as well. Our two children while they will always be our children are now, themselves, adults but both spent years in classrooms at Buckingham, now torn down, and in the hallways of Kelly Middle School, before the renovations and improvements. 

They made friendships that will last them the rest of their lives and learned as many lessons outside the schoolroom walls as within. And wherever in this world they go and whatever they choose to do, they will be very successful in part because of the time and talent dedicated to their development from teachers and staff throughout the public school system. 

Not forgetting the harried and often hapless neighbors who volunteered to be on the Board of Education, then as now, not the safest of harbors and the most contemplative of ports of call. Residents, taxpayers and parents and some of us are all three and others not so much, can intellectually accept that we cannot buy education the way we buy hamburger but sometimes the more teachable moments of educating our children (and all those who start and returned next week are our children, directly or indirectly) gets lost in the noise of Connecticut Mastery Test scores, a Network School or who's a member of an Alliance District. 

What is important and who is to say? All of it and all of us. Before the leaves start to build up on the lawn, find the time to attend a school PTO meeting -who cares if your kids go there or not. It's the same movie it's always been just with a different cast, maybe. The speaking parts are all about the same and remember there's no (still) talking in the hallways. 

What we as the shareholders in our limited corporation here, Norwich LLC, or where you live, choose to do or to NOT do in terms of dollars, energies and expectations for our children and their schools is a reflection on all of us and a signal to the wider, bigger world of which we are a part. 

We may not have the plow horse and the farm fields anymore but it's still true you can only reap what you have sown. So next Wednesday as you read your paper while across the kitchen table, the seeds of Norwich Next are bolting breakfasts and running for school buses, why not promise yourself that this is the year to learn more about not just what goes on in your child's classroom, but why. Make every minute a teachable moment
-bill kenny

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