The Real Challenge in Education - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

The Real Challenge in Education

Posted on November 13, 2010

by Dr. Edna Hussey on November 13, 2010

Over the past few weeks, you've been receiving information about two community service projects -- the Canned Food Drive and Operation Christmas Child. The purpose of this week's letter is not to review the details of both worthwhile projects, but rather, to share a few thoughts sometimes overlooked when projects of this nature tug at our heartstrings or rouse our charitable instincts. These projects all seem to be scheduled during the holidays, intentionally, I believe, in an effort to combat the pervasive Season for Getting. The holiday season has already taken hold in the shopping malls with brightly-lit trees studded with ornaments and Christmas music counting down the 12 Days of Christmas in November (when the 12 days actually begin from Christmas Day). We offer bribes to our children in exchange for promises of good behavior -- "If you do well in school, maybe Santa will get you that video game you've wanted!" As adults, we reconcile the contradictions and ironies. But not yet for our children. They have a long way to go in reading the world, and we -- parents and school together -- can help them make sense of these complexities.

Raising their awareness about helping others in need, of sharing resources, or serving others is an essential part of our educational program. This curriculum is perhaps more important than computing addition problems quickly or getting all the spelling words correct on a quiz. I keep iterating that teaching academic skills is not the educational challenge. The real challenge is teaching our children to be critical thinkers, civic-minded citizens, and ethical persons. Tell me, when and where did we learn the notion of relationships? Many of us are still learning the concept. We teach these values not only through chapel and character education, but also through inquiry, literature circles or book clubs, physical education, art, music, and even in mathematics. Just think of all those word problems where x number of items need to be divided equally among a small group of friends, or that ageless pie cut into equal slices. And what, indeed, do we do with the remaining cookies or that extra piece of pie?

Help us teach the real life skills, the ones that endure beyond our current notion of school. Since the canned food drive and shoebox project are before us, help your child really understand what it means to "give" or to "share." If your child is able to give from his own earnings, however you set up this process at home, then the act of giving has meaning for your child. Help your child think through the items that one needs to eat, or what the child in a culture quite unlike Hawaii will experience when a box is opened. If you already contribute to a charity or volunteer your services, tell your child about this organization and why you do what you do so well. Teach your child that opportunities to give are every day, not only during the holidays, and that sometimes the best act of giving is from the giving of self. Space, time, thoughtful words, gestures, smiles, -- all priceless.

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey