Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Most Wonderful Time?

The summer holiday is coming to a close. As the last days of August pass, its time to again consider Education Matters. As much as I've enjoyed the past weeks of rest, recreation and regeneration, it's time to start looking ahead and think (and blog) about the coming school year.  To that end I recently went to one of our local stationary stores, you know - the one with the easy button!. The store was instrumental in providing me with two images of how the coming year might be perceived.

The first scene played out in front of me in the checkout line. A young mom with two small boys, her elementary supply list in hand, had gathered all the things her children would need for the coming year. The younger boy looked to be about grade 2 age, and he watched in obvious rapture as all his shiny new school supplies were rung in, bagged and handed to him. "Look at all my stuff" he exclaimed to his brother. "I can hardly wait for school!" His brother, slightly older, perhaps grade 4 or 5, was not so overtly enthusiastic, but he did eagerly accept the bag his mother handed him, and fished out one of the notebooks to run his hand across its unblemished cover and flip through all the blank pages.  New school supplies have such a sense of promise and anticipation about them.

Later that evening the second image flashed across my tv screen. The same store is running its back to school commercials. The one that particularly caught my attention features a happy parent dancing through the aisles happily loading up on school supplies while his two depressed children trudge slowly behind. "They"re going back!" the voice over exclaims over the unmistakable strains of the Christmas carol "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year". I'll bet when Andy Williams recorded the song in 1963 he never imagined it would be used to flog school supplies.

Its the children in these images that really catch my attention. Live at the store, the children saw the coming school year with a sense of wonder and anticipation. The ones on the commercial look like they are being led to their own funerals. The challenge for educators is which image will we promote? How do we build on the enthusiasm and anticipation students bring to a new year? Once the supplies come out and start being used will we stoke the enthusiasm and help the learning energy build or will we cause it to wane until students truly yearn for the next holiday break?  In a few days we will all be headed back to classrooms, hopefully just as eager as the two boys I saw at the store.  Here's hoping we'll all strive to ensure that a most wonderful time is had by all!