Powerful Lessons in School and at Home - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

Powerful Lessons in School and at Home

Posted on January 30, 2011

by Dr. Edna Hussey on January 30, 2011

One of the most moving experiences this week was in Monday chapel. First and second graders in Donna Revard's classroom had completed a mini-inquiry on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to understand the reasons for the national holiday named in his honor. While learning about the circumstances that shaped his life into becoming a leader among African Americans and eventually the most inspiring spokesperson for people of color and all who are discriminated, the children arrived at this insight: what can we do to show that we support the principles of non-violent protest and the continuing need to address the yet unresolved inequalities in our nation? The children planned their slide presentation as well as the march that brought the school together. Standing at the front of the line, arm in arm and holding signs bearing slogans such as "Peace!","Equal rights for all," the children sang "We shall overcome," and led us on a peaceful march through the campus. Two ideas continue to linger for me, even as I write this entry: First, our students' learning should be meaningful and purposeful. There is no doubt that their learning in this mini-inquiry meant something strong and powerful to the children. Second, our teaching should inspire students who become passionate about what they learn. As parents, you should expect this level of teaching and learning at MPI. And you can count on this level of meaningful teaching and learning in every classroom, even without marches, in small and big ways.

A parent emailed me the other week to ask me what I thought about Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and her provocative sentiments and practices about child-rearing. I have not read her book, and the only thing I have read is an article in the recent Times magazine. So my brief, personal comments here (thanks, Brian, for asking) are simply a response to some of the notions Chua raises about parenting.

• Parenting, most people think, is personal. These are my children, so I'll do as I please, thank you very much. Parenting, however, is not a right. Being a parent is a gift and a social responsibility, and I think we all treasure our children and accept the responsibilities that come with parenting, among them a family environment that provides emotional safety and security, a quality education, and models of moral and ethical behavior.

• Children do not have a choice when they are borne to us. But we can teach them as early as possible how to make good or better choices and help them to read the different contexts and situations they encounter and which become more complex as they grow older. In addition, some children have no choice about the after-school activities thrust upon them. Just because we think it's good for them doesn't mean that children should have to participate in a busy schedule of Monday tennis lessons, Tuesday piano lessons, Wednesday Kumon lessons, etc. Children need time to play, imagine, create, chill. I can share some articles with you about the importance of play.

• Hard work and persistence are values that undercut all cultures and civilizations. These are excellent values to teach our children, but know their limits as young children. Otherwise the opposite effect is achieved: resistance, non-compliance, wavering self-confidence, total lack of effort and disinterest.

• Parents do have a right and responsibility for setting high, yet reasonable expectations for their children. "Expectations" in most discussions seem connected only to academic performance, of racing to the top, regardless of the toll it may take on health, relationships, and well-being. It's the practice of achieving perfect scores, outperforming others, or staying up late until the homework is completed. How about shifting the notion of "expectations" to social behavior, of expecting our children to be able to cooperate and collaborate with others, of being empathetic and compassionate persons? of being able to advocate for issues and for others? being responsible citizens? Let's expand the notion of "success."

No one needs to parent alone. MPI's stance is that we partner with parents in raising our students -- your children -- by providing an educational program that supports your expectations. Sending your child to MPI is a choice. Our beliefs about teaching and learning should be consistent with your own, and if we work together, your child has the best chances for achieving the kind of success that exceeds matriculation at the nation's best colleges and the highest paying jobs.

Think about it.

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey