Daily Archives: 06/09/2009

Back to School: The Gripes and Graces…

Back to School: The Gripes and The Graces

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ~William Arthur Ward

President Obama and family; Michelle, Malia and Sasha.

President Obama and family; Michelle, Malia and Sasha.

First Labor Day Parade in NYC - 1882

First Labor Day Parade in NYC - 1882

“Labor Day is a glorious holiday because your child will be going back to school the next day. It would have been called Independence Day, but that name was already taken.” ~ Bill Dodds

Just as Labor Day (this year in the USA on September 7th ) celebrates the significant efforts working people, labor unions and labor law advocates put into making the world of work a safe and sensible place for many, it is equally pertinent that President Obama plans to encourage and inspire our school age children in his noontime speech on the first day of school – September 8, 2009.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ~Alvin Toffler

Arne Duncan - US Secretary of Education

Arne Duncan - US Secretary of Education

According to, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s open letter to school administrators, “During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” The focus is clearly on learning skills/tools as Politifact.com correctly reiterates, not on socialist indoctrination as some detractors might lead one to believe.

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” ~George Bernard Shaw

In a Reflective mood  ~ President Obama via The NYTimes

In a Reflective mood ~ President Obama via The NYTimes

President Obama’s impending speech is meant to serve as a catalyst for positive action and is reminiscent of what former President George Bush did in his 1991 call to school age students “urging students to study hard, disdain drugs and ignore peers “who think it’s not cool to be smart.”; the goal is to inspire not incite our children.

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” ~Malcolm S. Forbes

Back to School at the Mall by Houry Photography

Back to School at the Mall by Houry Photography

As my children and I discussed the brewing controversy around this upcoming speech, we agreed that it behooves all parents to have an honest, open-minded discussion about school with their children; especially as the first day of school approaches. If we pause to think about Labor Day; its hard fought union history, the current job market, the re-training of skills set and the shifting expectations in the work environment, we see an opportunity to help our loved ones value education.

“Being a child at home in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.” ~Erma Bombeck

The Back to School set ... teens relaxing

The Back to School set ... teens relaxing

This is definitely an opportune time for dialogue; a time to revisit some of the gripes and graces that harkens back to topics our children have shared over many school years. Naturally, as our conversation progressed, I asked my children to share some of the things they like/dislike about the return to school. Since this is a collaborative effort, I will credit my children with giving me the two sections I created below:
I. Things that are dreadful about going back to school
II. Things that are delightful about going back to school

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” ~John W. Gardner

As the workload grows...

As the workload grows...

I. Things that are dreadful about going back to school
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.” ~Oscar Wilde

The No Way summer vacation ends soon kids... by Michelle F

The No Way summer vacation ends soon kids... by Michelle F

The Wretched Early Call: Perhaps one of the most dreaded things about waking up early for school is the clanging sounds of an alarm clock ending any notions held of spending an extra minute in bed. Waking up really early, for some children this occurs well before the crack of dawn, to get ready for school and waiting for a school bus on a freezing cold day is not fun. This is particularly difficult after a long weekend of fun and feasting; especially during the major holiday season.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” ~Albert Einstein

Life on the Yellow School bus...

Life on the Yellow School bus...

The Boredom Factor: This kicks in once kids get into the flow of school time routines and the sameness of certain events make school a chore; a dull teacher in an equally dull course, cafeteria meals that taste the same, that school bus route that never changes and the idle chatter that lingers long after one gets off the bus.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” ~Sydney J. Harris

The not so charming bunny by J. Benton...

The not so charming bunny by J. Benton...

The Bully Factor: Getting past the obnoxious set or clacks of disruptive students is a challenge for many school age kids and youths. There are students, especially insecure students, who berate or bully others to feel powerful when in fact their actions underscore self-loathing. In schools where zero tolerance for this type of behavior is not stressed in school assemblies, a prevalence of bad behavior can make life difficult.

“When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.” ~Peter Drucker

What happened teacher? by  Adibi?

What happened teacher? by Adibi?

The Bad Teacher: Unprofessional, lazy or annoyingly biased teachers can put a child’s academic efforts at peril. Teachers who lack diplomacy or make little effort to ensure all students who come to them learn, need to re-evaluate why they chose the profession. Teachers who are unable to separate their personal prejudices from their interactions with students in a classroom are a true danger to the learning process.

“Learn as much as you can while you are young, since life becomes too busy later.” ~Dana Stewart Scott

As the Testload overwhelms... by Andy Eklund

As the Testload overwhelms... by Andy Eklund

The Endless Testing: The litany of state and national tests; an endless battery of grade level tests, PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP tests and the impact it has on actual learning can wreck havoc on school students. Often, teachers are caught in the middle of a district’s demands for improved scores that they focus on rushing through the teaching of test curricula. And the end result? Assimilation of content gets sidetracked, students feel overwhelmed, under-informed and stressed out by the process.

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” ~Kahlil Gibran

The campaign to leave no child unschooled...

The campaign to leave no child unschooled...

II. Things that are delightful about going back to school
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey

The Four Behaviors...

The Four Behaviors...

Back to Routine: Noting beats a graceful transition back to the routine of school. Getting back into the discipline of an orderly, organized school routine on a daily basis gives most students something to focus on beyond laptops and TV. Learning to become accountable for doing homework and preparing for class assignments helps students learn about time management and the value of hard work.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” ~Victor Hugo

The Back to School Social Animals...

The Back to School Social Animals...

The Social Factor: The return to school means no more lollygagging on the sofa as a self-proclaimed recluse. Students reconnect with old friends to catch up on summer tales and accomplishments; especially friends who went away for the summer. They also have ample opportunity to make new friends in class and in extra-curricular activities or after school programs they have selected.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. ~Benjamin Franklin

It's Back to School time in the Big Apple ~ NY!

It's Back to School time in the Big Apple ~ NY!

The Joy of Learning: Learning something new, whether it entails developing new interests/hobbies or simply exploring new ideas in classroom discussions adds excitement to the back to school experience. Learning new content and interacting with other students in a class where the teacher emphasizes a positive learning environment is a big plus for all learners.

“Education is the movement from darkness to light.” ~Allan Bloom

Happy is the class where the teacher listens and cares...

Happy is the class where the teacher listens and cares...

The Great Teacher: Reconnecting with supportive, excellent teachers/counselors and developing vital connections with new teachers is something young students anticipate as they return to the fold of a familiar school environment. As the school year starts, students do wonder what their teachers will be/act like. Building strong alliances with other students and teaching staff is particularly imperative for students transferring to a new school; they have to navigate the minefield of adjusting to a new terrain and support on all levels is critical to a successful adjustment.

“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire. ~William Butler Yeats

At the heart of the matter is that the commitment to learn is a courageous act...

At the heart of the matter is that the commitment to learn is a courageous act...

Road to Success: The recognition that attending school is a trajectory to success is an incentive to get focused and do the best one can. For students who plan to go to college, setting learning goals and meeting them in school is an important step in preparing for college. For students with vocational aspirations, recognizing that school offers the fundamentals they need to move into trade or skilled work is an equally important incentive to do well.

“If you talk to your children, you can help them to keep their lives together. If you talk to them skillfully, you can help them to build future dreams.” Jim Rohn

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” ~Chinese Proverb

The locker door from here to there .... SUCCESS

The locker door from here to there .... SUCCESS

Value of Education: In the final analysis, learning is a choice. While some parents might feel the legal burden of keeping disaffected students in school and wait for the day it all ends, it is essential that we encourage our children to maintain a curiosity about the joys of learning.
We must learn to see and let our children see the value of obtaining an education which is something of great intrinsic value; an intrinsic value that no one can take away from them.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” ~Attributed to Andy McIntyre and Derek Bok

Even Rodney Dangerfield finally gets some respect ~ Get Educated.

Even Rodney Dangerfield finally gets some respect ~ Get Educated.

As a parent, I feel very strongly about the doors of opportunity an education can open. Every child deserves to have a chance to walk through those doors. What do you think?

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” ~Aristotle

Photo Credits:
Essence, Wikipedia, NY Times, GPS Magazine
Houry photography, GreenPens, 4Behaviors< Cotton Inc,
Jim Benton, Michelle F, Andy Eklund, Adibi?,

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank

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