I saw an ad that described a huge giveaway of thousands of dollars for the person who wins and another equal amount for the charity the person chose to write about. It started my thinking about what would be an ideal situation for the children who will soon be starting back to school.
The first thing I would wish for them is that each and every child would have a good breakfast every morning (and adequate food for the entire day, of course!). According to the Child Nutrition Fact Sheet, missing breakfast and experiencing hunger can impair a child’s ability to learn. Quite a number of studies have linked hunger with lessened recall and poor math skills. Regardless of any studies, it just makes common sense that a child who is hungry is not as focused on learning.
Many years ago I taught English in seventh and ninth grades in Chiefland, Florida. During a series of lessons on learning table manners (much needed at the middle school level, sad to say!), I fed a breakfast meal to one of my classes. One of the little boys said, “I’m so glad we get to eat because I’m really hungry. I haven’t had anything to eat all day.” The “breakfast” was being served after 10:30am. It hurt me to know that any child would not have enough food.
Our school system feeds every child who takes TCAP breakfast on those testing days. That in itself is evidence that breakfast is important. For parents who can afford to feed their children in the morning, it is essential that they have something nutritious to eat. For others, free and reduced breakfast and lunch are available. Children must be fed.
Another wish I have for children is that some limit to the number of tests they are given each year is established. As of now, in addition to weekly tests in every academic subject plus physical fitness tests, our students receive frequent standardized testing (like ThinkLink), county-wide assessments in reading and math skills, practice testing for the TCAP Writing Assessment, practice tests for TCAP, the real TCAP Writing Assessment and TCAP tests, etc. Some of these tests last four or five school days.
Our teachers are stretched to the max just to find time to teach the subject matter. Our kids are being tested so frequently that it is amazing that they have time for learning the material they need to know!
What’s the result of our measuring their progress? By the time many students reach fifth grade, I hear them making comments like “Oh, we’re having another test today but I don’t care whether I pass or not.”
For students who struggle, they get the message that they are not hitting the mark so often that they begin to believe they are incapable of learning. That’s a sad state of affairs.
For other students who learn easily and are experts at test taking, they get the idea that they don’t have to work at school. If they are being measured in a system where the lowest grade a student can make is 50 or 60, the more accomplished students think that they know as much as they need to know. When they reach college and get into a class where they have to study hard to pass, they may not have the skills they need—and thus we are having tremendous numbers of scholarship students who either lose their scholarships after the first year or even flunk out of college.
I know that children have to learn how to take tests. Our school systems are more and more based on statistics and “teaching excellence,” but children need to have time to assimilate information also.
Kids are pressured by schools testing them constantly, parents pushing them into sports and other extra curricular activities, and society expecting them to confront sex, drugs and other adult behaviors before they have time to “just be a child.”
What I truly wish for children is that they can experience the joys of childhood while they are children. We can see too many adults in our society who are behaving in child-like ways because they skipped that era of their lives.
Some of the lyrics of an old song called “Inchworm” are “Inchworm, Inchworm, measuring the marigolds. Seems to me you’d stop to see how beautiful they are.”
Let’s let kids have time to stop and enjoy their childhood before it’s too late. We know that a baby’s world revolves about itself. When children have no time to grow out of that illusion, they grow up to be the “Me and Me Only” generation that we’re seeing now.
My wish for children is for them to be allowed to be a child, whether that fits our idea of adequate statistics or not!