Credit Where Credit Is Due

Here, in our quaint, historically well-preserved, gas lamp-lit borough, it ‘aint perfect.

Sometimes bad stuff happens which spawns books and movies. Our taxes are too high. The wind gusts through town, trees fall on houses, and two years in a row Halloween has been cancelled by mayoral decree.

In a preemptive move to eliminate the risk of enormous tree limbs piercing the kids’ bedroom windows in a future microburst, we took down a few ominous looking, poorly pruned, top-heavy, sappy, needle-dropping projectiles. Was it a tough decision for us to cut down a clump of mature white pines? Absolutely. Do we sleep better at night knowing our son is safe from being crushed in his sleep during the next superstorm? You betcha.

Granted, now our neighbors don’t speak to us. But I digress.

Our public school system from pre-K all the way through AP honors courses at the high school remains a target of those seeking perfection. I mentioned here that many in our town are up in arms about the “flawed” methodology currently in place to educate their gifted and talented children.

“Our kids are bored, unchallenged, they don’t like school, they feel singled out having to complete extra work outside the classroom, the G&T program’s idea of special projects is handing the kids worksheets to complete in the hallway,” they complain.

As well-intentioned as parents’ criticism and calls for change might be, the fact of the matter is our children are managed day in and day out by honest, hard-working, poorly paid professionals who, whether or not parents choose to acknowledge it, profoundly impact our future lacrosse-playing rocket scientists.

Case in point. Over the summer, and at the beginning of this school year, all my son wanted to do was play video games. Skylanders, Madden NFL, Wii Sports. He’d come home, finish his homework, then run down to the basement to wile away a few hours before dinner as he converted his brain to mush.

I am happy to report those days are over. Or, at least, they’ve been waylaid by books.

Yes. Books!

Thanks to an inspiring third-grade teacher, and a few well-recommended Percy Jackson novels, a whole new world has opened up to the kid. I can barely get a word out of him at breakfast these days with his nose permanently inserted between the pages of the next Alex Ryder novel. He’s now explaining the back story of Arachne and Athena to me whilst taking in Spiderman on Broadway a few weeks ago.

Exhibit A: Day 1. The boy’s writing sample from Mr. White’s third-grade class.

Baseline Vitals

Exhibit B: Six months later. The boy’s writing sample from Mr. White’s third-grade class.

Vital Signs Trending Improvement

Regarding our imperfect school system, it’s quite easy to pick out the flaws, regurgitate the perceived problems, reiterate the complaints of the masses. Instead of complaining, we must pinpoint and build upon successes, acknowledge growth and advancement, and relay how our children’s lives have been transformed by inspired teaching.

Mr. White,

Thanks to you, we now have a son who loves to read and write.

Thanks to you, we now have a son who points out every simile and metaphor when we have our nightly reading tuck-ins.

Thanks to you, we now have a son who reads with a dictionary by his side, and strives to log 300 minutes per day in his reading journal.

Mr. White, thank you for placing the tools in front of our son, for encouraging him to build a foundation, and for nurturing his curiosity.

P.S. If that ‘aint perfection, I’m not sure what is.

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