An open door makes for a great elementary school
A trusted friend surprised me the other day. At his child’s elementary school, it had been decided parents should not walk their children into the classroom in the mornings. Seems such habits, according to the school officials, foster dependency instead of independence.
I laughed at first, thinking of my friend’s sense of humor. He knows I’ve always taken a keen interest in my own kids’ schooling, and I was sure he was kidding me. No joke, he retorted.
I felt sorry for him. As I thought about it, I recalled some of the best memories of taking my kids to school and, when there was time, walking them into class. At Waynesville’s Central Elementary when John Sanderson was principal, the school was as open to parents as one could imagine. My kids, for the most part, enjoyed it when I walked them in. Or perhaps they were embarrassed. Doesn’t matter, because to me it was important. Sometimes it would lead to conversations with their teachers, or perhaps a look at recent artwork or projects. I’d often get introduced to the friends I’d heard about at home.
Other days, I’d poke my head into the principal’s office or catch him in the hallway for a few words about whatever, sometimes school, sometimes Carolina basketball, or perhaps music. I felt like he wanted me and as many parents as possible in the hallways. Sometimes John wasn’t around. Perhaps he was running car line, which he did when necessary.
Often I’d stop in the lobby to chat with other parents who might be sitting or standing around, chatting with each other or teachers. Those were the same parents who often volunteered in whatever way necessary. Or, perhaps they were stopping a parent who didn’t volunteer and trying to get them involved in helping the PTO, helping with the walkathon, or just helping in whatever way they could.
It was an amazingly supportive elementary school atmosphere, one created by a principal and teachers who were not put off or intimidated by overzealous parents and who were, for the most part, enthusiastic about having easy access to those most responsible for helping the children in their classes succeed. My children are in college and high school now, but those same families who were encouraged enthusiastically to get involved at Central Elementary way back when, for the most part, have children who are pretty successful students.
As my children left elementary school, I bemoaned the reality of middle and high school — parents can’t be as involved in their kids’ education. Rules get more stringent, discipline gets tougher, academic expectations move into another sphere. Testing, ridiculously over-emphasized in elementary school, gets even more attention.
I have come to detest the much over-used phrase, “it takes a village,” but that doesn’t take away from the truth of it. Public schools, especially elementary schools, can be one of the most powerful unifying elements of a great community, a place where people come together to give children the best possible chance to succeed in life.
What’s it like at an elementary school where parents are discouraged or even banned from walking their children to class in the morning? I don’t know, but I don’t see how it can be good for the kid, the parents or the school.