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Our school is awesome

This post comes with two disclaimers that are fairly significant. 1) We pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation with the largest chunk of them going to two school districts (K-8 and then a high school district shared with another community) so if I didn't have glowing things to say about the experience we'd have a problem. Not every elementary school is as lucky...just look to our neighbors in Chicago who have neighborhood school closings, teacher layoffs, and a budget shortfall. 2) I'm not sure the Kindergarten experience can stand in for all of elementary or middle school. We have an ongoing educational battle over testing, the academic climate, the role of technology, discipline philosophies, etc.. As students age, the school day changes and gaps develop.

Last night, we got a chance to attend our elementary school's Open House and visit our son's classroom, meet with his teacher, and learn about what he does all day. I have to admit, what I saw gives me no doubt that he's getting a fantastic education and leaves me comfortable putting him on the bus every morning. It blew me away.

First of all, what struck me was how at ease he was and excited to show us around. He introduced us to his teachers, casually waved hello to his friends in the hallway, and had a long list of locations he wanted us to visit before leaving. He told us about his day and we got a chance to learn things that you just don't find out by asking "how was your day" while eating after school snack. (The reason his class is so close already to having a party via earned coupons is that his class is doing better than some others.)

Other than a few rooms with air conditioning, the school is way too hot...even on a milder summer day. A few rooms are nice and cool, but the other rooms leave anyone entering as a sweaty, grumpy mess when exiting. We have an ongoing debate in the village about the capital costs involved with fixing that, but it's not really acceptable. Not in a 21st century classroom. Given the amount of energy being used by these learners, I totally understand why they're so exhausted when they arrive home after a day at school. I fall firmly in the pro A/C camp. If I'm an adult who wouldn't want to work in that, a child shouldn't be forced to learn in that.

But, really, that was the only negative I had. The classroom was brightly colored, organized, filled with items on the walls and in cubicles that draw the attention of a 5 year old. They love the process. Where they sit for rug time. Where their desk is. Where they hang nametags, bookbags, put their finished work. My son was even reading words off a chart of their "current vocabulary" list. Something he doesn't do at home. There was a list full of the names of parents who were eagerly volunteering to come in for special events or help the teacher with weekly classroom needs.

In the art room, above his assigned art table was a biography for a contemporary pop art designer from Canada and the teacher has social media accounts. Really all the teachers have social media. The regular classroom teacher I've had several e-mail conversations with during the school day. The students have a roaming foreign language teacher--from Spain--who teaches them Spanish 3x per week and runs a blog with updates. The kids all get gym, music, library, recess 3x per day. There's a spelling club, math club, science club, running club, and the younger kids all have a yearlong older student buddy for lunch,getting to the bus, and reading.

It's just too bad we can't duplicate this environment throughout the nation.