As I am closing out another school year, I have spent a lot of my time thinking about education. I am so fortunate to teach in a system where people value education and are supportive of schools and teachers. Most parents encourage their kids to do well, and most students are at school to learn. Having said that, I also see another side: some parents and students have lost sight that even though American education is a right, it is also a privilege.
We are currently reading Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis as a family, and this reality hit me hard in last night’s reading. While describing her first year as a teacher in Uganda, Katie writes:
“As I walked my students home, I also met other children along the way. School-age boys and girls who for some reason were not attending classes. I saw others who had come to school for the first few weeks and had not returned. In the limited Luganda I had picked up, I tried to asked these children why they did not attend school. What I learned was shocking to me. Their guardians, be it an aunt or uncle, mother, father, or grandparent, could not afford the mere U.S. $20 the school charged to cover the operating cost for a three year term.
“I learned that sending children to school is one of the greatest living expenses a Ugandan family has, and most families have multiple children. School fees far exceed by about four times the cost of water or electricity which most families do without anyway. These realities apply to children who have parents; many children don’t so going to school is not even a possibility for them.”
Many of the problems in American education today is that everyone involved has lost sight that education is not only a right but a privilege. We forget that we are privileged to enter a building each day where we can devote time and efforts to learning. We forget that we are privileged to have resources which make learning possible when students in other countries sometimes write notes on pieces of trash if they even have a pencil. We forget that we are privileged to have school teams devoted to sports instead of turning students loose on the streets all day to play soccer with a “ball” made out of banana peels. We forget that we are privileged to have transportation to and from school in order that our students don’t have to walk for miles sometimes barefoot to learn. We forget that we are privileged. While I cannot speak for all countries, I have been to schools all over the world, and none measure to the schools we have in the U.S.
May parents not lose sight of the gift of education.
May students not lose sight of the gift of education.
May teachers not lose sight of the gift of education.
I love Teacher Appreciation Week and have been blessed with notes from students, cupcakes from parents, and Starbucks. I wonder, though, if it’s time we adopt a School Appreciation Week to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are to have the privilege of education.