What do the words “back to school” mean to you?
The answer is fairly obvious for students, teachers, and support personnel in places of learning. Whether one is in a home school, an online academy, an elementary or secondary school, a trade school, a college or a university, back to school means a systematic process of learning in a setting where you are either the facilitator or the learner.
Judging from snippets of dialogue by parents and caregivers over the last couple of weeks , back to school for them means freedom. Freedom to pursue their choice of activities. Freedom to work at home with fewer disruptions. Freedom from having to pay for daytime childcare. Freedom from being the activities director and chauffeur.
As someone who has been a child, a student, a college graduate, an elementary school teacher, a parent, a home school instructor, a youth group leader, a virtual volunteer, and an adult educator, I believe these definitions are too limiting. Let’s think outside the box (or the institutions of school and parenthood) and expand on “process of learning” and “freedom.” Back to school should mean the freedom for everyone to continue the life-long process of learning that makes one a contributing member of society and an asset to one’s family, community, and sphere of influence. Parents and children should explore new interests, together and separately. Instructors and students should master new technology. The old and the young should find ways to interact peaceably with each other. We should never stop learning, thinking, engaging, and making a difference.
My favorite teacher expressed it well when she said, “I don’t want to teach to the test. I want to teach them to think for themselves, to reason, and to make wise decisions because these middle schoolers are future jurors.” Let “back to school” mean making a positive difference for the future.