Teachers worry during the summer. They worry about their preparation; the materials they will need; the surprises waiting for them when they get back. But most of all they worry about how prepared their incoming class will be.
When I taught in a school on an air force base I found that was one worry that was significantly decreased. By and large my students came to school ready to begin a new year. It may have been the military attitude manifest in their parents carrying over from home to school. As teachers at that school we could often be heard to say it was how school used to be.
Ah, the halcyon days of yore seen through the filter of time.
Also at that school I was given a remarkable gift. I have always been fascinated with raptors, birds of prey. I love to watch them wherever I go and have all my life. I was thrilled one year when a Cooper’s Hawk decided to build her nest in the tall eucalyptus tree right outside my classroom. Several days, while my class was at lunch, I went back to sit in my room, twenty feet away from her and watch her behavior during the whole process: the selection of materials, the deft way she would transfer twigs from her beak to her foot as she was taking off to return to the nesting site. I found the whole experience exhilarating.
Then disaster struck.
Not long after her eggs hatched one of the still flightless chicks fell from the nest. It managed to locate a largely protected area tucked up against our school building right outside the school lounge. Reflective glass allowed me to observe from close proximity the chick and her parents without them knowing I was there.
Raptors are not known for their parenting skills. Often, only one chick will survive to adulthood because the parents will feed the first hatched and ignore the others.
But not this time.
I watched in rapt fascination over a period of days as both the mother and father hawk fed not only the two chicks in the nest but continued to fly down to the little alcove where their fallen fledgling hid and make sure that it too was taken care of.
This was exemplary parenting.
Any teacher will tell you: “Parents are the key.” Without parent support, without parent interest, without parent follow-through no child can reach their full potential as a learner. Sherri Wilson focuses on this in her article “Keeping Kids Academically Sharp During Summer” 1).
But as a society, caring for our children is the job of all of us. I was disturbed by a recent report from HuffPost authors, Joy Resmovits and Saki Knafo saying that 1 million children are homeless 2).
I am sure, those two Cooper’s Hawk parents would tell you, if they could, that caring for a homeless child requires much more effort and it makes any prediction for their future clouded at best.
And Alyson Klein points out that significant decreases in funding will only exacerbate the situation 3). This is not the time to decrease funding to education, this is when we should redouble our efforts. If the fledgling falls from the nest you don’t say, “Oops, well, too late now.” You resolve that that child will survive, and even more importantly, thrive. That’s what good parents do.