To My Daughter’s Kindergarten Teacher,
My daughter starts kindergarten in 13 days.
I have been sitting here staring at those two words and sobbing.
Sobbing for two reasons.
First, time is just flying.
If you have children of your own you understand this.
That day you bring your child home from the hospital, you can’t even picture him or her being old enough to talk, let alone step foot onto a school bus.
The transition from this:
takes all of 10 minutes, it seems.
It goes so fast.
And so the crying is, in part, due to that.
But there’s another reason for the crying.
A bigger reason.
I don’t like the direction public education has taken.
Not at all.
And just about every fiber in my body is telling me that sending her to kindergarten in thirteen days is the wrong thing to do.
It’s not because of you.
I trust you.
I know you are educated and well-trained.
If you are a new teacher, I know you are enthusiastic and ready to take on the world.
Eager to make a difference.
If you are a veteran, I know you are experienced and have a big box of tricks from which to pull.
And I know that you are not responsible for the curriculum being rammed down my children’s throats.
I know it has been forced upon you.
I know you feel immense pressure.
I know the amount of material you are expected to cover with the amount of time and resources you have available to you is bordering on insane.
I know it’s not you creating this situation.
But the reality is, a lot of the things my daughter is going to do in the next ten years at school are not going to prepare her for real life.
They will prepare her for a series of tests.
And those tests are nothing near a representation of the tests that she will face later on in life.
Those are the tests that I am concerned she be able to pass.
The past two years have been very difficult for my family.
It has been a series of tests.
We have been hit by blow after blow after blow, and we have not been able to catch any sort of break.
We have managed to survive this time thanks to my parents, my friends, the community and even strangers.
And the things that I know she will need in order to survive this type of situation, should she ever find herself in it, are not the things she will learn in school.
Meeting a certain score on a standardized test is not going to get her through this shit.
Being able to explain how many boxes Tyrone has stacked inside of each other and then illustrate that in a picture is not going to help.
Yes, I agree that higher order thinking skills are necessary and important.
But showing you can find an answer on a worksheet and actually being able to solve a problem in real life are two totally different things.
I’m sure you will agree.
I was a teacher for over ten years.
I got my certification and a masters degree in elementary education from a reputable university.
I paid thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars for that degree.
And I would conservatively estimate that 90% of my training and education did not take place within the confines of the classrooms in which I sat.
It took place in the confines of the classrooms in which I taught.
Earning your degree is basically a formality.
Just about everything I learned that helped me to become an effective teacher I learned on the job.
In the trenches.
The same thing has happened to public education.
It’s become a formality.
There is not enough time in the trenches.
My child will be gone for 8 hours of the day, learning how to get a good score on a test.
Sure, some of the priorities will be addressed in school.
But a lesson or two on the food pyramid is not going to cut it.
A puppet show from the guidance counselor once a quarter is not sufficient to teach her about character education or how to communicate effectively with her peers or how to ask for help if she needs it.
So she needs at least 10 hours to sleep.
In the 6 remaining hours of the day, I will need to teach her the things she will need to survive the real tests.
I will need to teach her the importance of exercise. As well as give her opportunities to do that every day. Because she won’t get those in school.
And I will need to teach her about nutrition and how to cook.
I will need to teach her about mental health.
And about how taking care of her body and paying attention to what she puts into it will affect the condition of her brain.
I will need to teach her the value of money.
How to make a budget.
How to save.
Because she will learn how to add money in school.
But she won’t learn how to allocate it.
I will need to teach her to volunteer and help her neighbors.
Not just for a one-time project.
There is also music and creativity and pursuing the things she really enjoys and developing her strengths.
Somehow, I have to fit all of this into a twenty-four hour period.
While still allowing her to be five.
Clearly that’s not possible.
If I could homeschool, I would.
But right now I need to get my family on track financially, and I just can’t do that if the kids are at home all day every day.
So I will give you my daughter.
But if an opportunity arises for me to teach her any of these lessons that she won’t really get to practice at school, I will seize it.
If I think she needs a day off, I will give it to her.
If I have to make a choice between skipping school or skipping an opportunity to teach her something invaluable, well,
you will be marking her absent for that day.
And while I trust that you are doing the best that you can for my daughter given the circumstances,
I hope that if a day,
arises and she is not in school,
you will know that I am doing the same.
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