By Peggy Wuenstel – One of the more challenging aspects of my current position as a reading interventionist is getting buy-in from my more reticent students. There are many ways to say it, but challenged readers really do need to believe that the most important road to improving their skills is practice, practice, practice. I actually hear some of them explain that they don’t do because they don’t like to do it. I cannot even imagine saying that to one of my teachers. That got me thinking about all the things that are radically different than when I was sitting in the small desks, and even more narrowly, what we don’t do anymore.
Feed the Ducks – I know there are good ecological reasons not to do this, but it really seems like a magical moment of childhood is gone when these feathered friends don’t come questing and quacking for the discards of our bread drawers. Even stale things were good enough to share, and seeing nature up close and personal is a childhood memory I regret being unable to share with my grandchildren.
Take Food to the Drive-in Movie– I’m the oldest of seven kids and one of our summer activities was often loading everyone in to the car to attend an affordable film at the local drive-in movie. There was no need to smuggle in snacks, it was encouraged. I love our local movie theater, and realize much of the profit that keeps first-run films in my neighborhood cinema comes from concessions, and would never dream of sneaking in my snack. But, I do usually go on free popcorn Tuesdays.
Send thank you notes –Jimmy Fallon’s wonderful Friday night bits aside, it’s rare to receive a written acknowledgment of a gift given or a favor done. I have a project at school where students write the notes that are sent to volunteers and donors to school activities. They are usually greeted with equal parts astonishment and enjoyment.
Have Long Personal Conversations Over Dinner- We are in a hurry, and the leisurely mealtimes enjoyed by Europeans do not mesh with our results-driven culture. How sad for students who don’t first witness, then imitate, and ultimately participate, in a recap of the day, a discussion of world events, or a building of background knowledge by which they can understand the world.
Get to Know the Shopkeeper – Our local grocery store closed in December, a victim of the economy and the Super Wal-Mart that was built next door. These people not only knew me by sight, but were willing to support local school projects and serve as a place where kids could see their teachers out in the community.
Dance (except at weddings)- Watching my parents hold each other on the dance floor and move in perfect harmony, even in the living room, is one of my dearest memories. The music and their synchrony modeled a connection that nearly every young person hopes to find for themselves. My husband doesn’t dance, except when we are alone, and then only because he knows I love being held in that same way.
Memorize Phone Numbers, Addresses, and Business Names- Technology has made much of this unnecessary, but also leaves us without back-up when the battery dies of there is no coverage. Kids aren’t encouraged to know their personal info, and don’t see memorization as useful tool for thinking and learning. Spelling words, multiplication facts and studying for tests are all more challenging as a result.
Talk to Our Neighbors, Except to Complain – no more over-the-fence conversations, coffee after the school bus pulls away, or catching up on the neighborhood gossip, and posts on Facebook are not equivalent sources of connection.
Use Candy, Cookies or Sweets as Rewards – I do believe this is a good thing, and I do miss baking for my students and the joy of a holiday party.
These are the things that I mourn the loss of the most deeply: We don’t
Believe the Teacher When a Child Complains. Parents call school loaded with anger without knowing both sides of the story.
Want the Best Possible for Our Kids Regardless of What it Costs. Tight budgets mean program cuts, larger class sizes, fewer of the bells and whistles that can make school a magical place to learn.
Respect Public Servants. We now see them as a drain rather than a service or resource.
Teach Topics or Lessons for the Pure Joy of the Learning. We only have time to cover what is going to be on the next assessment, factored into our school’s performance report, or meet a Student Learning Objective.
Assume that Teachers are Effective, and Only Require Extensive Documentation in Cases Where There is Concern. A lot of times this feels like “prove that you are not a failure.”
Volunteer. Parents’ jobs are less flexible, and more families require two incomes. Although we have seen a welcome uptick in dads on field trips, it is harder than ever before to find chaperones, PTA volunteers, or the manpower to complete the things we dream about for our students.
Expect a Reply from Our Elected Officials, or a Change in Their Vote Based on Public Opinion. We seem to have lost our representative democracy. Most Wisconsinites favor increased support of public education, but this is not reflected in budget or policy, and legislators are reluctant to release the contacts to their offices that bear this out.
Nostalgia is not the only reason to hang on to things past. If we don’t think about what we do, and what we don’t do, we run the risk of letting others decide what is important in our personal and professional lives. We may be passing on lives to the kids that we share that are seriously stripped of joy and wonder. That is something I don’t intend to do anymore.