Family Matters / Donna Spellman
For all of the teachers reading this essay, this is a tribute to you.
Just in case you weren't sure if your year's worth of lessons were received and understood by your students, please allow me to assure you that yes, indeed they were.
Perhaps I can prove it to you by overhearing my children playing outside on their very last day of school. It was a beautiful and hot afternoon and alas, they came upon a turtle that we assume lives in a nearby pond. One of my children quickly announces, "We need to create a habitat for this turtle in order for it to survive!" Another one of my children then runs into the house to retrieve her science journal that she worked on all year about habitats. Continuing to skim through the pages, she eventually finds the section she had created on Northeast animals. This turtle, she explains, must be a Northeast animal because we live in the Northeast and it was found close to our home. (Process of deduction). She then proceeds to let her siblings know that most Northeast turtles are omnivores, which means that just like humans, they eat both plant food and meat. And the discussion continues until, lo and behold, the kids have created a new and safe habitat for the turtle, filled with grass, pieces of steak (leftovers from dinner the night before) and of course water. There were no questions asked of me, looking on, because they had much more information than I ever could have come up with.
Later that evening, to celebrate the end of the school year, another one of my children asked if she could make cupcakes for herself and her friends who would be coming over the next day. We agreed that she could make two boxes of cupcakes (yes, we resort to boxes and don't make cupcakes from scratch!) This was my other realization that my children had actually learned something in math. If one box of cupcakes calls for ¼ cup of oil, then two must require, (here comes the math part) 2 X ¼= 2/4 which simplified equals ½ cup of oil!
Yes, that's right!
And once again, there was no need for an intervention from Mom. The kids were capable of figuring out the math completely on their own because they had actually learned how to multiply fractions this year in school.
As the night went on, another one of my children noticed that although it was 8:30 p.m., it was still fairly bright outside. He took a moment and then proudly announced that this is normal on the 21st of June because it's the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
He proceeded to tell me exactly where I could find the moon in relation to the sun on this 21st of June, as well as what I could expect only six months later when we will experience the shortest day of the year. And here comes the miracle of all miracles, this same child who earlier in the school year announced that he was allergic to pencils and paper, proceeded to find his summer journal so that he could keep track of the sunsets and perhaps write a poem about it in time to return to school in the fall.
Now if that's not a statement of a successful school year, I don't know what is.
Thank you to all the teachers who continue to inspire their students to wonder, question and proudly share what they have learned.
As a parent, it's amazing to stand back and watch my children blossom year after year after year.
Here's to another school year gone and another school year to come.
Donna Spellman is Family Centers' director of self-sufficiency and supportive housing. With offices in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan, Family Centers is a United Way, Darien Community Fund and New Canaan Community Foundation partner agency that offers counseling and support programs for children, adults and families. Family Centers is also affiliated with the Community Fund of Darien. For information, call 203-869-4848 or visit www.familycenters.org.