My Favorite Radical Heads to Kindergarten!

Long-time members of Radical Nation probably remember the day that my wife and I welcomed Reece — my beautiful, funny, smart adopted daughter — into our lives.

Swaddled, pooping, and wrestling with a pacifier three times the size of her head, she won my heart in an instant:

That same girl has grown up, y’all — and on Tuesday, she heads to Kindergarten whether I like it or not:

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I have to admit, I’m a nervous wreck.

I’m full of questions about what she will learn and who she will become and whether or not traditional classrooms in traditional schools are going to prepare her for tomorrow’s world.  I’m full of worries that her teachers may not understand that her vibrancy and energy and spirit are EXACTLY who I want her to be given that girls who are vibrant, energetic and full of spirit grow up to be strong, confident women.  And I’m full of fear that I might be a failure as a parent, forgetting that my contributions to Reece’s learning are as essential to her success as anything that schools will do on her behalf.

But I’m full of hopes, too.  I hope that she’ll never see the difference between learning and schooling.

So much of what makes Reece special is that she LOVES learning new things and she’s constantly making discoveries — about both herself and the world around her — that she’s ready to share with anyone who will listen.  Whether she’s telling Grandma about the ways that animals use camouflage to keep themselves safe or teaching Gramps the best way to snap your fingers, she’s proud of what she knows and she’s ready to learn more no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Like most kindergartners, learning is still a celebration instead of a chore for Reece — and I hope that her teachers and schools will work to keep it that way.

And I hope that she’ll keep asking amazing questions.  Just yesterday, she asked:

  • Can planets fall out of the sky?
  • Is the sun like the earth’s mother?
  • Does your spirit leave your body after you die?
  • What’s higher – Heaven or space?
  •  Why do some fish glow?
  • How do satellites work?
  • How do television shows get to our house?

Questions are the starting point of any worthwhile discovery.  More importantly, questions are the starting point of a meaningful life.  The simple truth is that wondering about the world is a thousand times more fun than waiting to take directions.  In a world where students and schools are judged by nothing more than answers, I hope Reece will find teachers who still believe in the beauty of good questions.

Finally, I hope she’ll be more than “college and career ready” by the time her journey through “the system” is done.

In fact, the first time a teacher and/or school tells me that they are committed to ensuring that their kids are “college and career ready,” I’m likely to go straight Vesuvian on ’em.  Sure, I want Reece to develop a set of skills that will help her to find a financially rewarding career — someone has to pay my nursing home fees after all — but there is SO much more to life than being prepared for college and a career.

To be honest, I want Reece to be COMMUNITY ready on the day that she graduates.  I want her to recognize that she isn’t living in an isolated little bubble of ME, but instead, we live together in a world full of WE.  I want her to make the world a better place for everyone who lives in it and to develop the skills and abilities necessary to tackle the challenges that threaten our environment and the peace and safety the people that we share our planet with.

I want her to recognize that she has power — that she CAN drive positive change with her choices and her actions — and I hope she crosses paths with teachers who constantly remind her that she is responsible for so much more than getting to college and preparing for a career.

Most importantly, I hope that Reece’s teachers and Reece’s principals and Reece’s schools and Reece’s systems remember that she’s not just another kid sitting in just another classroom waiting for the school year to end.

She’s MY kid, and she’s fixin’ to take the world by storm.

#readyornot

__________________

 Related Radical Reads:

Welcoming the Newest Radical

This is Who I Am

Maureen Langan and CBS Should Be Ashamed

 

8 comments

  1. agarry22

    Bill-
    I can’t believe she is starting school! Take it from another father who has fought tirelessly to change the system, she will have great teachers and some that are still working on the craft and the trick is to support her in all parts of the process. Michael has seen the best (in your class) and the worst in others, but I’ve had to continue to keep him motivated and inspired to learn.

    • Bill Ferriter

      I’m with you, Adam….

      I think the key is going to be to remember that it is my job to step in and keep Reece inspired when she has teachers who aren’t able to motivate her.

      What I struggle with, though, is whether or not I’m responsible for trying to drive change beyond Reece. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough to help create the system that I want for her. I realize I’m “just a teacher” and that the system I work in is huge so the impact I can have from the classroom is likely to be small, but I wish I’d done more to drive serious systematic change.

      Anyway — appreciate your support and the constant challenge that you bring to my professional work.

      Rock on,
      Bill

  2. Bryant McEntire

    That truly was a very, very touching post Bill. Especially for those of us teaching in these systems who happen to be trying to navigate them for our own children. Keep’em coming….you move us!

    • Bill Ferriter

      You got it right, Bryant —-

      The challenge for me is trying to figure out how I feel about the system that I’ve spent my whole career working in. Now that my own daughter is a part of it, it is more important than ever that I see what I believe in — both in the buildings that she attends and in my own classroom as well.

      The personal challenge that her kindergarten experience is bringing into my life is definitely interesting. It’s making me think more about my own role in driving change.

      Hope you are well,
      Bill

  3. edifiedlistener

    Wow, Bill, this is one post I hope you’ll save for you and Reece for a lifetime. I got chills reading it because I’m right there with you, full of many of the same questions, anxieties, hopes and dreams as my own firecracker kicks off his school career on Monday. Let the adventure unfold!
    All the best,
    Sherri

    • Bill Ferriter

      Firecrackers rule, Sherri!

      And I think my struggles is that in some ways, I doubt that traditional schools will serve my kid well — and yet I work in the system where she goes to school. That’s leaving me personally challenged to reimagine the learning experiences I create for kids more than ever before.

      Have a great first day tomorrow!
      Bill

    • Bill Ferriter

      Thanks a ton, Miguel!

      She’s actually a LOT like me — which means she’s bound to get in her fair share of trouble. But in the end, that makes life WAY more entertaining, right?

      Hope you are well,
      Bill