Our parents were right. Children grow up. They do this fast, marching towards adulthood with a persistence and determination they don’t even recognize. Despite our best efforts to reverse course, our children still grow up. All the books in the world placed on top of their heads will not stop the process. Time is a masterful general as he moves us all along.
Knowing this, childhood is a scarce resource for any single individual. That makes it valuable. As a result, we guard it and protect it. As parents, we lose ourselves in it sometimes. We forget our ultimate goal as parents is to prepare and equip our children for their futures. It’s a long game for us parents. The short term provides opportunity after opportunity to forge our children’s character, train them and hone their skills and connect them to something larger than themselves.
The memories give us comfort, but the long game of competent, caring and courageous adults gives us hope. We have hope in our own legacy and what we strive to build in our own lives. We have hope for our neighborhoods and our cities. And this blooms into an enduring hope for our nation and our planet. This is the charge of each generation – to pass the baton of responsibility for solving more problems than we create and sharing in the work with others.
This work does not happen in isolation. As parents, we need a team. That does not diminish our responsibility nor the sacred obligation we have to our children. It acknowledges that our families do not live in a vacuum. Even in the strictest and most hedged in of communities – think of the Amish – children are raised by the community, not just their direct parents. Some of our families are fortunate to have robust teams including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more. Others include a connection to a religious community with a host of surrogate mothers and fathers, honorary brothers and sisters. Still others have networks within their neighborhoods including the family next door or community centers or sports teams and dance troupes.
The school is a member of this community and a fellow stakeholder in the lives of children. Parents today live in an educational landscape saturated with choice. To be clear, there has always been choice in education. This could have been private school or home school or zip code. Parents, if financially mobile, can move to find a house near a school they feel will partner with them in the near term for a great educational experience that ultimately contributes to the long game – competent, caring and courageous adults.
For this team to work – the parents and the school – they both have to keep their eyes down the road on this ultimate goal. This happens through a transformative and restorative educational experience that values the individual, creates opportunities for meaningful learning experiences and connects kids to the world beyond school. There should be a little magic each day – exploding rubber band pumpkins and trebuchets, built with your own hands, launching cantaloupes into the air.
Much of the conversation around education fails to capture this magic. There is a great deal of “noise” and for the sake of not contributing to it in this post, you can decide for yourself if you think the conversations we have about education are what we should be talking about or if it feels more like “adventures in missing the point.” Regardless, a school is simply a gathering of members of a community for the purpose of learning.
And in this gathering, there is a social contract between parents and schools. Similar to the Hippocratic oath where doctors pledge first “Do no harm,” schools pledge to “Remember the future.” When parents are looking for schools for their children, they should not just pay attention to the adults. Look at the students. Are they articulate? Are they confident? Are they happy? Is there a light in their eyes? If not, why not? Don’t get me wrong, not everyday is paradise for every child in even the best schools. Life presents a struggle and resistance regardless of age and we are not always at our best.
As a parent, I get it. I get the risk involved in sharing two of the most precious individuals in my life with others. I am also not immune to our culture’s constant pressure to be a perfect parent – ensuring that my children speak 3 languages, can play the piano, be captains of their teams, go on exotic vacations, serve in the poorest countries in the world, pick up a part time job, get 60 hours of college credit by the time they are 17 . . . all in the pursuit of the perfect college resume, to get into the perfect school to secure the perfect job and begin the perfect life.
I am old enough now to know this is not how life works. This kind of pressure does not have a happy ending for many parents or children. As Howard Thurman says, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” So instead of caving into these outside pressures, I should be investing in building my children into whole people or as Brene Brown puts it, “wholehearted people.” These are people who can live with courage and conviction, not in spite of life’s bumps and bruises, but through them.
Still, the draw to shield my children is strong and to stand up and be their protector. But at some point, two things have to happen. First, I have to learn to trust my team and second, I have to recognize that my children are on a path to becoming caring, competent and courageous adults and this requires them to fall down and pick themselves up again.
The school is a part of the team. The teachers, the administrators, the staff and the students are all working together towards this goal of building a better future. A school is a “building with a promise of tomorrow inside.” As teammates, we have a responsibility to one another, to work together, and build each other up. We have the same goal. Like ships setting sail, we are working together to launch students into the rest of their lives. Helping a child grow into a mature, young adult is a dynamic experience, fraught with peril and finished with pride.
I have to remember that I will not be able to live my children’s lives for them. They need room to grow. As many colleges, universities and business leaders have expressed, kids who are over-parented are not equipped for the workforce. Christine Deputy, who oversees the training programs at Starbucks, says “If your parents or teachers have been telling you what to do your entire life, and suddenly your customers are yelling and your boss is too busy to give you guidance, it can be really overwhelming. A lot of people can’t make the transition. So we try to figure out how to give our employees the self-discipline they didn’t learn in high school.”
Part of being on the team together is letting people play their positions. And our students should be given enough voice, choice and responsibility to play their position of being a “leader of their own learning.”
In this educational environment where choice is treated as a privilege, remember parents, you have always had a choice. Your children are yours to raise and train. They will one day be full participants in the future. At Village Tech, we want them to be active and engaged in their lives and in their communities. We want them to care. We want them to be skilled at their work and in their relationships. We want them to be confident in who they are and what they can do. We want them to take this talent and use it to serve their families, their friends and their communities. We want them to make a contribution to the world around them. As a result, we have created an environment for learning that facilitates this primary goal of building students who become caring, competent and courageous adults. We are looking for partners in this work. Thank you to the families who made us a part of their team.