I Was Wrong

When I was teaching second grade a few years ago, a parent asked me how she could prepare her daughter for college. I don’t remember my response, but I probably talked about reading comprehension and problem solving. I do remember thinking that this mother was a little neurotic for being concerned about college when her daughter was only seven. Turns out I was wrong.

Research titled The Forgotten Middle was released last Wednesday by ACT. This study reported that many 8th graders are not academically prepared for college, and that high school is not enough time to prepare students. “What we’re saying is college and career readiness is a process that includes high school but is not exclusively a high school issue. It’s a K-12 issue,” the president of ACT’s education division Cyndie Schmeiser reports.

It’s hard to admit that I was wrong; and I can see now how certain skills I taught in second grade can prepare students for college. At the suburban school where I taught, every new teacher to the district went through the mentoring program, no matter how much experience she had. I had already been teaching eleven years when I was hired, but the instruction techniques I learned in math, reading and science during my year of mentoring were wonderful additions to my repertoire. Every teacher had to be part of study groups and in-school workshops, and that helped us stay in touch with the latest research. All this talk about college preparation may seem contradictory to the post I wrote about play, but these instructional techniques aren’t drill, drill, drill. They are about using seminars, guided groups, and journals as valuable teaching techniques. Play definitely has its place! Even though it’s a few years away, when I read about new educational research, I get excited about reentering the classroom.

Black Wool Hat

It’s dark now, at 5:30 in the afternoon, and I pull on my black, wool hat as I walk out the door to pick Lily up from ballet class. The edge of the hat touches my bare forehead, and I reach my hand up to scratch. My hair is tucked behind my ears, peeking out from under my hat. It’s cold tonight, and I pull on my gloves. It hasn’t been so long ago that I wore a different black wool hat, with a brim and a black ribbon around it. But it wasn’t so cold, and my unprotected scalp itched all the way around. It was fall, and school had begun. Students said, “It’s not fair! You get to wear a hat in school and we can’t!” The seven-year-olds in my second grade class knew the truth, that cancer (or rather the chemo) had caused my hair to fall out. But I had almost broken down and cried while confessing the reason for the hat. So I never explained to other students. I was too afraid that I would cry. The old adage is “Never let them see you smile until after Thanksgiving.” A teacher crying? Over a hat? I smiled and waved the questions away.

As my hair grew back, my colleagues said they’d miss my hat. I was so cute in my hat. Keep wearing it, they said. I liked my hat. It served its purpose well, hiding my hairless head from little eyes and keeping cold drafts at bay. But I never wore that black, wool hat again.