Partners in Loving the Children: A New Year’s Wish

Whitney_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. Anne Whitney, Associate Professor of Education at Penn State University. Read her full article, “Partners in Loving the Children,” in The Educational Forum.

Happy New Year! I always think of back-to-school time as the Real New Year, for in my family of two academics, an elementary school student, and a preschooler, fall truly is the starting point by which we mark all of our time.

We celebrate this new year by finding new shoes that fit, checking jeans for holes, and sharpening pencils. We open our journals to fresh pages and set fresh goals. We get our carpet cleaned after a summer of dirty bare feet, and we clean out the area by the front door where we put our jackets, shoes, and backpacks.

In the days leading up to the start of the new year, my daughter pines for the letter that will tell her who her teacher will be. When the letter arrives, my phone starts to buzz with questions from other parents: Who does she have? Who do her friends have? What do you think of Mrs. X? In our small community, this is typical parent information-sharing. We all want a good teacher for our kids.

But to my daughter Emily, just starting the fourth grade, it’s more than that. She’s asking: With whom will I spend my days? Upon whom will I be relying as I try new and difficult things? Under whose wing will I recover on bad days? Under whose influence will I grow?

The first few weeks students spend with their classroom teachers will shape a new and important relationship.

I take this relationship as seriously as Emily does. Kylene Beers explains in her often-shared meditation on why she “hated” her daughter’s first-grade teacher: “Though I had been a teacher for years before having Meredith, before sending her off to first grade, I had never truly understood the power of a teacher in a child’s life.” It’s like that for me, too. I have been forging relationships with teachers for my whole career, whether as a classroom teacher myself or as a teacher educator. But my sense of the stakes in these relationships changed when it was my own kid. And specifically, they changed most when the going got tough, as I describe in my article in The Educational Forum. When my own daughter was struggling with reading, the love with which her teachers surrounded her—and me, as her parent—helped her in school, but also helped me become a better parent.

Here is my new year’s wish for all kids returning to school: May you enter a classroom community characterized by love. May your year in school be a joyful year in your raising. May your schooling be a team effort. May your teacher be a fierce champion of you and what you need. May your parents, teachers, neighbors, and country join in a great and mighty fight for the loving learning that you deserve.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Whitney’s article free with the education community through September 30, 2016. Read the full article here.

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