Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School

Today is a special day for the red heads with whom I share my life. One is celebrating her entrance into the world and the other is going to her first day of 4th grade.

Hannah was as ready as she could be for the first day of school. She was certainly organized. Shortly after we met her teacher last Wednesday she took home the lunch schedule and quickly decided which days she will be eating hot lunch and what days she will be eating cold lunch. The lunch calendar is now dotted with “h’s,” and “c’s.” Her backpack and supplies were purchased almost a month ago, and if Hannah had her way the purchase would have been made earlier. She kissed me good night last night and made me promise that I wouldn’t let her oversleep.

She didn’t need to worry. She was up shortly after seven, and we started the wonderful morning of seeing her off on the first day of school.

Yesterday afternoon Amy and I sat down and shared with Hannah our expectations for her this school year. It didn’t take too long for the three of us to get on the same page. Hannah wrote the expectations down, and I hope they’ll end up on our refrigerator door.

Last night some neighbors came over and we talked about education. Both of our neighbors earn their living through teaching and education. All of us shared our frustration with the focus on testing in our schools. As a parent I want my daughter to learn how to think. This is more important to me than a score she receives on a standardized test. I believe educational leaders have confused “means” and “ends.” I have no problem that kids take standardized tests and that we have national standards for different grades. But the obsession with testing has gone too far. Some schools in Minnesota are now starting two weeks before Labor Day they they can have more time to prepare kids for spring tests. Some want teachers to receive extra pay depending on how their students do on tests.

Hannah knows the traditions of the first day of school around our household better than me. As we were eating breakfast she asked me if we were going to take a video of the day. Oops—forgot that tradition. So I found the video camera, charged the battery, and took five minutes of video. Somewhere in our collection of video tapes we have five years of tapes that have 1st day of school recordings. If I could find the tapes and play them I would guess the length would go in decreasing order--on Hannah's first day of Kindergarten we took at least a half hour of video.

Soon after we took the obligatory first day of picture and then the neighborhood kids and parents gathered at the bus stop—which is on the corner of our front yard. I hadn’t seen a few kids since last spring, and we have a few new kids going to school. We quickly got the kids together to take a picture, the bus came, and off they went. We had some tears and one girl was running a fever so couldn’t go to school. Then they left. Watching the bus drive away on the first day of school is always a powerful moment—deeply spiritual.

Say a prayer today for the new journey our precious kids are taking today in Minnesota.

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