07 September 2015

Make a Wish

It's almost time to start a brand new school year. Sure, some of you have been back at it for more than a month, but Washington has a kinder, gentler calendar: after Labor Day or Bust.

We had inservice days last week, and I got to hang out with the school where I am doing my administrative internship. I remembered a post from Organized Chaos from a few years ago where her school asked parents of kindergartners what their hopes and dreams were for their children. I loved that idea when I first read it. We are often so focused on what we have planned that we forget to ask everyone in the system about what we want.

So, this year, we asked parents to fill out a card when they dropped off school supplies: What are your hopes and dreams for your child? Most parents responded with ideas about the school year, but a few took a larger view and commented on college or aspirations for life skills. Here is a summary of what they said...
  • Kindergarten: make friends; have fun; love to learn and to be at school
  • Grade 1: make friends; love learning; build social and behavioral skills
  • Grade 2: increase social skills; build self-confidence; be challenged
  • Grade 3: make friends; build self-confidence and self-esteem; stress-free
  • Grade 4: make friends; have fun; build self-confidence
  • Grade 5: make friends; increase social and emotional skills; improve in reading and math
  • Grade 6: make friends; be challenged; stress-free
We were somewhat surprised by these results. They represent about 2/3 of the families at the school. And their biggest wishes for their children's experiences at school have very little to do with academics. Really, I think that's okay---even better than okay. In an era of school improvement, federal mandates, and public accountability, parents are telling us that they hope their kids will be happy and well-adjusted little people. It is the foundation for everything else.

Can the school write a SMART goal around "make friends"? Nope. But I think the data parents have provided are good reason for the school to create a focus on social-emotional skills for kids...something much more than just reading and math. Schools will always have a focus on academics. They can also help nurture the hearts of the communities. From what we see on the cards parents wrote for us, it looks like they're wishing for that, too.

My career turns 25 years old this year. I am excited to be back in a school this fall, looking through the lens of a principal for the first time. My wish is for a year full of learning and professional growth, along with some balance to have more time and opportunity for a personal life.

How about you? What is your wish for the 2015 - 16 school year?

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