Like many teachers, six of us took advantage of the summer months to participate in a conference last week. We heard about best practices, formulated wonderful ideas, and shared fantastic resources for integrating literature into math. We were eager to get back to Wheeling to incorporate much of it into our classrooms as school starts again.
Hearing about someone else's great classroom unit inspires two different emotions: excitement as in "I can't wait to try that" and a tinge of disappointment as in "Why haven't I been doing that already?" Teachers are used to this balance of not getting caught up in what we could have been doing and focusing on what we can do to make teaching and learning even better in the future.
It is harder for parents. After all, parents do not get to travel to conferences without their children to share best ideas with like-minded peers.
As we were contemplating the twin ideas of regret and expectation, we were working on a group study of the book, "Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics" by Chris Confer and Marco Ramirez. Chapter Eight begins simply with this African proverb: "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
There it is. That "get out of jail free" card we all need in our lives. We need not second guess ourselves or beat ourselves up over what we have not been doing - just start now.
This rings very true for parents and teachers alike. If we can incorporate that wisdom into our daily practices, we will meet with more success (and most likely less stress). Borrowing a metaphor Dr. Mehmet Oz uses, we need to listen to the voice of the GPS that politely urges us when we miss a turn or head down the wrong street. It reminds us, "At the next available point, please make a U-turn." The voice doesn't berate you. So you ate that donut at 10:30 at night. So your child has been having way more than two hours of screen time each day. So the entire summer slipped by without enjoying all those family activities that you promised your children you would do. Quite simply, you turned on to the wrong road or were sidetracked. Start now. Make that U-turn.
Will it work this time? Will we be able to fulfill the promises we make to ourselves and to our children? To that, we can offer two guarantees - you won't be perfect and it won't be easy. That is the beauty of parenthood, which calls to mind the scene from the movie of the same name, "Parenthood." Grandmother wanders into the room and reminds the stressed parents, " You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride [on a roller coaster] could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it."
There it is again. Life - especially parenting - is a roller coaster. It is full of ups and downs, highs and lows. You have no idea when you will be able to catch your breath sometimes. There is no manual, and there is really no one to blame when things don't go smoothly for you. Still, we don't know a parent that would trade the ride for anything - it's the hardest and best thing we ever did in our lives.
If you think of it that way, the directions are easy - just keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
- Linda Krulock graduated from West Liberty State College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and early childhood. She teaches senior kindergarten at Wheeling Country Day School. Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini is head of school at Wheeling Country Day. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard University Graduate School of Education.