As I reviewed a host of papers yesterday, I realized that our teaching/learning expectations and goals outpace the year. We have more to teach and do than time to do it. This means that only those students who work fast or work a lot at home actually meet all of the expectations.
Fortunately we're a school that does not punish students who don't meet every academic expectation by not allowing them to take part in the deeper, enjoyable, and collaborative field studies and special events. We recognize that academic goals are not one-size-fits-all for all children. For example children's home lives with regard to academic support differ greatly. Some children are read to every night, use a number of good tech programs, play family board games, travel, talk together, and visit multiple places related to teaching and learning--generally these children come to school ready to learn and with substantial academic knowledge. Other families struggle with poverty, health issues, lack of resources or time to elevate a child's academic knowledge/experience, and other obstacles to optimal teaching/learning dispositions. This is not to say that children from one environment over another, in the end, do better since our childhood environments support our futures in all kinds of ways, good and not so good. But it is to say that at-home academic support for young children typically leads to a quicker and more helpful pace and readiness for academic learning. Those children who haven't had substantial academic play, talk, and other experiences early on, often are a bit behind their peers who have had this kind of early life support. One doctor in Boston labeled this the 1,000-book club noting that there was a difference between those children's school experience who have experienced 1,000 books by the time they start school and those that have experienced very few books.
One example of this is that in our school we have a math learning goal. Some children reach that goal in just over two hours while it takes other students twenty or more hours to reach the goal. That's a big time differential.
As I write about this, I'm cognizant of all the great knowledge and skill we don't teach at school--important learning that helps people to live good lives, We know that some of our most challenged "school" students are the most advanced and proficient "life" students--their skill and will is exceptional and will take them far in life. Many of our most notable people throughout time were not successful elementary school children, yet later on their energy, drive, and intelligence surfaced as they succeeded in all kinds of careers in arts, science, politics, and more. I am always amazed to see how my grade-school students do later on, and the one element that those successful students share is that they had supportive mentors in their life--the kind of people that encouraged their passions and helped them find ways to fulfill their dreams in life.
This summer I'll think about the fact that the year's expectations far outpace the actual year. I'll think about what are the priority areas and what areas of school life are secondary. I'll talk with my grade-level colleagues about this and listen to what our many leaders, directors, and coaches have to say about this too. I don't mind working with big goals, but I also don't want to punish students because a year's expectations are unrealistic and undoable. This is a constant challenge in schools that I will continue to think of.