Whatever you do in life, whether it's running a race or building a skyscraper, it's always an advantage to get off to a great start. So today, as our boys embark on their last day of school with their eyes and swim gear firmly pointed toward summer, I'd like to offer a little thanks to the wonderful head starts in life they're about to leave behind.
Today is Ian's last day of pre-school. I know a lot of people think of pre-school as nothing more than a period of time or a building kids hang out in before they're old enough to take on the rigors of K through 12. I say that because that's exactly what I used to think.
That's before I met Kiddie Kingdom, where both of our boys spent what I now fondly call their kindergarten preparation years. Today Ian leaves behind Ms. Corinne and Ms. Betty. They are the wonderful teachers who've committed this past year to seeing Ian roll into kindergarten with momentum on his side, not feeling the breeze of it as others read and write and think their way right on by him. For the past 4 years, Ian has been surrounded by teachers and staff who see the children in their care as an opportunity to mold futures, and not keepsakes they're obligated to return in one piece at the end of the day. (Although I'm extremely grateful that's how Ian was always returned to us, because I'll be the first to admit, he's not an easy kid to keep in one piece.)
And today, Elliott will spend his final day in a classroom learning from Ms. Hoggan. She's been Elliott's teacher the past two years. He and we have been blessed by her passion and sheer determination to teach kids. Whenever I'm tempted to believe the bad rap our teachers get these days, I go visit Henry Clay Elementary and get a dose of Ms. Hoggan. She reminds me of a couple of teachers I had early in my schooling. They hunted down the good in me like a tenacious bloodhound tracks a lost child. And when they found it, they kept pulling and pulling until they had every last ounce of it out of me. They found strengths I'm convinced no other teacher would have found. They were keen and creative enough to find the building blocks that largely shape who I am today.
Ms. Hoggan has spent the last 2 years discovering greatness in some children who are now ready to let it shine as second graders. And children who will no doubt shine it all over the world as adults one day. I'm sure on occasion, though, in the midst of all the greatness they are enjoying and spreading, they'll look back with gratitude to the wonderful lady who first discovered it.
Sometimes I do wonder, how did the person who discovered the world become more famous than the people who are discovering in its inhabitants the hidden gems that determine the way it thinks and feels.
As far as the gems that have been discovered in Elliott and Ian goes, Katie and I are blessed. We've been able to afford to send our kids to the best place imaginable for kindergarten preparation at Kiddie Kingdom, and to live in a community with highly regarded schools like Henry Clay Elementary, which attracts great educators like Ms. Hoggan. Our government likens educating our children to a race - a race to the top. At the top is the opportunity to earn millions and join the elite who shape the policies and laws the rest of us live by. The only way you win that race to the top is by crossing the finish line that is an elite university, which requires you to have elite grades and standardized test scores. There's no way to get there with a false start, and in a growing number of cases, no start at all. So we've been blessed.
I believe our government is misguided in what the top should actually look like, though, and even more so about what it should take for someone to get there. Even so, this week our leaders are driving home again that college education is the key to our kids' futures, as they are fighting to forgive and reduce the debt college graduates incur while joining the race that government policies stop just short of insisting they join. College graduates shouldn't be paying more than 10% of their income to pay off college debt, they say. Meanwhile, a large number of us are spending up to 20% of our income on health insurance and much larger percentages on a place to live. Priorities?
It's typical of government to be reactionary. They are standing at exit doors of elite college graduations wondering where the rest of the world is. That large groups and classes of people aren't there is somehow the fault of high school and middle school teachers, and the answer to that is in the accountability of non-stop testing and assessment. I'm here to tell you, at the end of all of this debt forgiveness and this futile standardized testing journey, you're going to find the exact same kids coming through those elite college exit doors.
That's because the problem isn't at the end, it's at the beginning. Until our leaders become more focused on how well prepared our kids are entering the K-12 journey than the SAT score they bring out of it, a lot of young minds are going to go to waste. Until they insist that every community has elementary schools that attract teachers like Ms. Hoggan, kids with undiscovered greatness are going to be written off as troublemakers and disruptions to those setting the pace in the imaginary race to the top.
I'm not sure why our boys have been blessed with the opportunities of Kiddie Kingdom and Ms. Hoggan. I do know it gives them a head start on the race to the top. But in our family's book, the race to the top has nothing to do with a particular college, or even college at all. It comes in discovering the joy of learning and the uniqueness they both hold through their God given gifts. I'm so grateful Ms. Hoggan and all the wonderful people of Kiddie Kingdom have given our boys the head start they need to face whatever race that comes their way. I pray one day more kids will have the same head start.