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School Crossing

By Guy Nahmiach

Ever since I moved to Wheat Ridge from New York some 12 years ago I’ve been going to a local cafe for breakfast. Sometimes an order of eggs with “half the potatoes please” and sometimes just toast “hold the butter please.”

Yesterday I ordered the hot turkey sandwich with, “Can I please have the corn instead of cranberries?” When the waitress came back she relayed the message from the chef that he “Won’t do that.”

I thought how easy it is to please a customer when you know exactly what they want. When customer service becomes more about the provider rather than the customer and how it can take years to gain a customer, but seconds to lose one.

Pennington Elementary was put on the “chopping block” last year for mainly being out of touch with what the neighborhood (customer) wanted: 62 percent of the neighbors choose to send their kids elsewhere. So with just over 100 kids enrolled and with only four teachers on staff, and finally a new leader that will attempt to resurrect this once great school, I ask why are they are keeping the 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. extended day? Did someone knock on doors and ask what it would take for parents to send their kids to Pennington again? The staff, principal and new PTA leader are all great. But are they about to provide cranberries to someone that hates cranberries?

Time will tell if the neighbors come back.

With the emphasis these days being on teaching our kids to become great learners and developing critical minds in identifying questions and finding answers rather than just memorizing places, names and dates that are irrelevant to their future, I’ve tackled this question of what we think our elementary school students should know before they enter middle school, from history to geography, math and sciences. My son Dylan feels that it is important to know that Columbus discovered America, but,  “Who cares what the names of his three ships were.” Maybe knowing the multiplication table was relevant, but memorizing formulas and random science facts was just as irrelevant as learning cursive writing. Especially when they are all available online.  Only a few days ago, Dr. Glass shared with me a quote from Harvard

professor Tony Wagner, “Content matters. Skills matter more. Motivation matters most”.  The focus has to absolutely be on getting students excited about learning, more so than testing them on their memorizing skills.

Over the summer I will be gathering high school students, principals, board of education members and portents top discuss what would actually be helpful to young students in discovering what they were passionate about, what helped them in their later years of education and how could these lessons be useful in developing critical minds and uncovering what students wanted to pursue later in life, all while fulfilling a curriculum that helps a generation move forward. If you have thoughts on the matter and want to write on or participate in this discussion, please let me know.

Change is really hard. For those that need it and for those that need to make it happen. We keep moving students through grade levels without them actually being prepared, with the notion that “holding back is bad.” Yet no one pauses for a second to create the change that is needed. Instead, we lower the bar, we talk about testing as not being mindful of these fragile minds and we talk about preparing these young adults for the “real world” by giving everyone a participation ribbon. In my world, not everyone qualifies for a mortgage or an apartment lease. Not everyone identifies with the gender they were born with. Not everyone is heard in community meetings. In my world, people develop thick skins, they learn to be heard and they fight through the crowds to be included. They reach out for hands of those that haven’t developed a voice yet. Change is about all of us being different from one another but being equal in our right to ask. Change is about accepting those that want something different on their plates. Like corn instead of cranberries.

As always, thanks for reading.

Contact Guy Nahmiach at Guy@NostalgicHomes.Com or 303-999-5789.