Letter to the Editor: I Had a Dream About the Coming School Year

| August 19, 2013

I had this dream the other night where I was a principal of a small high school addressing a two thousand seat auditorium brimmed to capacity.

Parents and students were brimming with excitement for the first day of school to arrive the following day.

I’m about to give the canned introduction, but then a wave of righteousness washed over me as a tongue of fire flows from my ever-gaping mouth. It was as if I was not in control of my faculties for the duration of the speech, and this is what the voice chose to say with pitch and fervor:

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

I’m the school’s head master, and I would like to speak to you tonight about how you can be the best education-focused parents in the country.

Now, I know you have been bombarded with back to school specials for the last few months from retailers, and your main concern has been the most cost-effective wardrobes and under what circumstances your child’s fashion show will begin, but I want to present to you the ways and means to help your child get more for their educational dollar this school year.

I have a concise five point plan to put most, if not all, of your stressors to bed.

I’ve combined a complete analysis of history and an extensive examination of our current society to formulate five life-altering mantras or creeds that you may post on your fridge, and if you have any stress this year, you may read and meditate on these immutable truths that I have constructed for your peace of mind and thought.

Please enjoy.

#1 – Your Son or Daughter Is a Wimp of the Highest Caliber!

This generation is becoming less interested in the archaic struggle for knowledge through most of the traditional methods that we have canonized throughout the centuries, and they think it’s all just a smart phone away, while we’re the ones who have it all backwards.

Never mind their internet history is littered with Grumpy Cat and 2 Chainz videos (Rapper). They don’t revere anyone unless they’ve made an infamous internet video, and that is a problem in a normal world offline.

I use stats to show a decline of many of America’s high school student’s report card grades over the last ten years. Everyone is duped into believing their school works as long as their AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) is met. Poppycock!

What is your child doing to augment his/her life, education, and school culture? If you don’t have an answer, then you just discovered that your family is part of the problem!

Sprinkle salt on all of your child’s complaints about how their teacher is mean and gives them too much work.

Little secret: they don’t want to be pushed at all, and they know how to get what they want from you so well that our hands are tied, and you don’t even know it.

If a student doesn’t want to work, they don’t have to, and unfortunately they will still graduate on time thanks to some fudging from a pressured guidance office.

Side note: If we are never pushed as a developing human, even by people that we may not agree with, then we never develop an internalized mirror in which one may discover an appropriate self-image and life direction. No biggie!

#2 – Your Son or Daughter Is Normal If They Think They Are Smarter Than Their Teacher; They’re Not Gifted! Sorry!

Everyone of this current time believes their Timmy or Susie is smarter than their teacher because we have too much self-esteem. I have students who build an entire argument around “Oh Yeah!” and believe my five point position has been trumped!

The only reason that giftedness and GIEP’s (Gifted Individual Education Programs) are on the rise in this country is because schools can sneak extra funding into their districts through back channels. So, don’t rest on their laurels. You should still save for your retirement, as well, as they may not pan out to be a “cash cow!”

Spoiler alert: Teachers make mistakes, many! The system may not work well for everyone, so augment with tutors, online videos, museums, trips, music education, and sports whenever appropriate, as well as life-affirming conversations.

The direction of your life is still very much your own business.

#3 – More Danger in School!

I’m not talking about teachers carrying guns. It had to be Texas that is leading the way, huh! I mean, we need to start advertising that we are trying to get your Johnny to fail!

…We are here to push them to their limits physically, intellectually, and spiritually in the hopes of making them the best person they can be. Play a sport, instrument, speak up in class, or even make a mistake! How can we damage a child’s self-esteem if we’re placing a healthy expectation upon them?

Schools should be safe yes, but not stress free! I like to think of this place as a furnace that refines and strengthens the will to live, with accelerated purpose.

Understand that the fear of failure is the greatest ingredient buried within success. Every successful person in their endeavors has achieved a healthy calculated understanding of what failure will look like if their best doesn’t come into the room with them.

Let them know you’ll let them fail, and there will be repercussions for underachieving.

#4 – Limit Media! Now!

How about this – we may be living in a time where you may be smarter for not knowing how to turn on certain electronic devices because they are likely to cause a disassociation with a healthy identity. Sorry PlayStation and Xbox!

There are a lot of dark alleys on the net, and they know how to get your kids to go down them. Kids are talking all their smack online these days since we’ve got a lid on it at school, and they can say some disconcerting stuff under the false pretense of anonymity.

You’re not a bad person for having your child’s Facebook account; I have you among my personal heroes!

#5 – It’s your problem!

Paternalism is a real problem in schools today as we attempt to climate control every student experience.

Some of our worst students come with no filter for control, and we sell them the illusion of normalcy for seven hours a day, which is unfair.

This summer I thought all about me and how to make money and get everything I want out of life! Never did your child’s GPA come to mind. Is that bad or completely the truth? Now, I’ll be good enough to care for them while they’re here, but their GPA is off my late night agenda.

Think like this from now on, and you’ll be alright; your child is being warehoused until we get permission to put that silly hat on them and send them to the next racket!

Yep, so you better get your ducks in a row lest they wind up in your basement for the rest of your natural lives!

Does anyone have any questions?”

…Then I woke up! I wonder what it all means?

~Robert Whitlaw

Robert Whitlaw has been in education for the past 18 years in both private and public education. He has a masters in curriculum and instruction as well as a principal certificate.

Previous submissions by Robert Whitlaw:

The Graduation Speech I Wish I Could Give

A Disillusioned Optimist, Dreamer, Felon

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