When asked to say a few words at the beginning of the graduation ceremony of our Healthy Start Child Development Centre, I was caught off guard and spurted out what came to mind. After thanking everyone for their presence, I must have caused some awkwardness. I admitted that the one thing I did not quite enjoy about the occasion was parents effusively thanking us for educating their children. I explained that in the spirit of partnership, we needed to hear what was not working well too.
Well, I guess graduations as we know them, are happy occasions where all is forgiven, and people move on. Thus, listening to a report card is not socially appropriate but this could also mean that as educators, we close the year having taught much but learning little. Hence, I look forward to the day when the opening address is jointly conducted by a parent and an educator reflecting on how the year has been.
“Parents are the child’s first educators,” is a basic tenet in early children education but is that interpreted to mean that a child should come to school competent with age appropriate literacy and numeracy skills? If we scoff at the question, would we be able to describe the lessons these first educators have taught, let alone value them?
The graduation was held at the Alexandra Fire Station and those moving on to Primary School; received a certificate and photographs of themselves in a graduation gown against the backdrop of fire engines. The children and their families were visibly pleased with the pictures and we were glad for the warm hospitality of a neighbour. Alexandra Fire Station is just a few bus-stops away from our school and the firemen have been volunteers with us for some years now.
Last Saturday as families accompanied their graduating child on stage, I was touched by the effort caregivers took to encourage their children. For me, it was an important lesson in being present for our loved ones. For the children, it would have been an experience of care, concern and love, and perhaps a lesson in values that make for a joyful life. This got me thinking of the importance of bringing the stories of children’s caregivers or their families’ lived experiences into our classrooms.
We name our classes with words like “love, peace, care, courage, gracious and joy” to help children imbibe their meaning and value. It looks to me that these are the lessons that children’s first educators can teach if we welcome them into our classroom as partners and believe that regardless, their stories are worth listening to. We can still be inspired by heroes from afar but why not also learn from the heroes in our midst.
At the end of event, I was much heartened when a father led a percussion troupe comprising some children, their siblings, some ex-students and a teacher of ours to close the occasion. Obviously, music lessons are a way parents could contribute and at that point, the ambition of our school being one that honours parents as their children’s first educators, did not seem so far-fetched after all.
Enjoy your week.
Teachers who put relationships first don’t just have students for a year. They have students who view them as “their” teacher for life. – Justin Tarte