As the mid-days of August call classes back together, I am reminded of the words to a song once taught to me by a friend, “From you, I receive. To you, I give. Together, we share and, from this, we live.” Too often we think of schools as places where we send our children so that teachers can take large funnels and pour infinite amounts of knowledge into the minds of our children. Having stood at the front of a classroom for many years, I can say that I learned far more from my students than I ever taught them. I can say the same of learning from my children and grandchildren.
I learned from Doug that it is OK to skip school to shovel the snow from your grandpa’s driveway because Grandpa has to go to dialysis. I learned from Carrie that bright-colored clothes can make you feel happy even when your mom is dying of cancer; I learned from Tommy that if a brain injury causes your memory loss, you probably won’t remember when the injury occurred; I learned from Jerod that dreamers can accomplish the impossible; from three-year old Owen I learned that, in his words, “overalls are not conducive to going to the bathroom,” and I learned from Mitchell that self-sticking note paper will even stick to cat fur.
It is so important for our children to learn from their teachers and from us, but it is perhaps more important for them to learn to share what they learn. If your first-grader is learning to read, ask them to help you read the lunch menu for the week. A simple, “Can you help me read this e-mail from Uncle Bob?” is as important as helping them with their homework. Letting them be the “teacher” increases self-confidence and reinforces skills that they are acquiring at school. Is your third-grader struggling with fractions? Ask them to cut the pizza into equal parts for the four of you and then ask if it would be easier to pick up the slice that is ¼ of the pizza or if it would be easier to cut that ¼ into smaller pieces. Let them see that 2/8 is the same as ¼.
Many schools have begun service learning projects because educators have figured out that children learn best by doing. According to the National Service Learning Clearinghouse, “Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Through service-learning, young people—from kindergarteners to college students—use what they learn in the classroom to solve real-life problems. They not only learn the practical applications of their studies, they become actively contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform. Students build character and become active participants as they work with others in their school and community to create service projects in areas such as education, public safety, and the environment.” Ask your child’s teacher if they are doing service learning projects in their classroom. http://www.servicelearning.org/what-service-learning
Teaching, learning, sharing – from this we live. Encourage your child to learn all they can in school, seek out the best teachers, but don’t forget to help your child be a good teacher, for it is by sharing the experience that we all get the most from life.