In the years since I was in elementary school things have changed quite a bit. Back in the day I only went to Kindergarten for half a day and I vaguely recall having a rest time on mats during that time. Now Kindergarten is a full day and they expect kids to be done napping well before they start Kindergarten. Even Kaylee’s pre-school class doesn’t get any time for napping. They’re too busy preparing the kids for all they need to know before they ever start school.
It’s not just the amount of time they spend in school either. There are so many more things they’re expected to know at a younger age. Despite that, the kids seem equal to the task and able to keep up with the workload with little or no trouble. There’s also been a shift in the types of things they learn as well. Computers are introduced in pre-school and by the time they’re 7 years old they can run them better than any adult I know. And the shift to the computer age has put things like cursive handwriting on the back burner. Brendan learned the basic letters in third grade, but since then it doesn’t appear to be anything they’re working on this year, nor is their homework required to be turned in in cursive.
The other area that has taken a backseat is the arts. When Brendan was in Kindergarten our elementary school still had an art program with an art teacher and everything. But the following year they changed things. Kids still get art lessons but it’s up to the classroom teacher to provide it and do the art projects with the kids. I’m not a fan of this because while the teachers themselves are great most of them probably don’t have an art background and if a child has an aptitude for art there won’t be anyone able to nurture that gift.
Thankfully the one area that our school hasn’t cut into yet is music. They have a full orchestra and band program that kids can join in the 4th and 5th grades. Along with that they have a full time music teacher who the kids see at least once a week. (If I understood Brendan’s explanation correctly they see him every third day which is why the number of times per week changes) And he does for those kids exactly what I think is missing from the art program at the school.
My kids just adore him. They look forward to his classes and the things that he does with them. He usually has each of the grades put on a short program every spring. He was the one who did Mighty Minds with Brendan’s class last year. This year the fourth grade did a program called How I Became a Pirate. Brendan, as he did last year, had a small part in the program. That surprised me a little because after his performance last year he swore that he never wanted to do that again.
Evidently he had changed his mind, because he was excited to have a part again this year. His line was much shorter and we actually never did any work on it at home with him because he had it memorized by the time he brought the sheet home. His program was scheduled to be Thursday of this week. We weren’t sure if it was going to go off as planned since we’d had some bad weather that cancelled school on Wednesday. But the weather cleared up on Thursday so the performance would go on as scheduled.
Brendan asked me to come to the morning performance, and since it didn’t interfere with dropping off or picking up Kaylee from pre-school I agreed. I went and watched the cute little program about two kids who meet up with pirates and learn what it’s like to be one of them. It was obvious that the snow day and lack of one last rehearsal had made the kids a little rusty but the program was cute regardless.
That night we went back for the full performance with both sets of grandparents in tow. Just as the program was set to begin the music teacher got up and gave a short speech. He explained that the program the kids were doing was a bit ambitious on his part and that he was trying to stretch the kids abilities. He thanked the kids for their hard work, along with their teachers, and the parents. As he was going through his speech it began to occur to me how much work had probably gone into the program.
The evening’s performance went off with as little of a hitch as is possible with 9 and 10 year olds. A couple of kids forgot their lines, and Brendan almost missed his queue, but overall the whole thing was a success. After it was over I sought out the music teacher to congratulate him on a job well done. I figure it’s something he probably doesn’t get to hear often enough and want to make sure he knows we the parents appreciate his efforts.
As I got up to him it occurred to me that he probably doesn’t get a lot of help in his classroom. At the beginning of the school year the classroom teachers all post lists for parents to sign up to volunteer. Back when I was working I always volunteered to be a home helper, meaning that teachers could send home things to be cut out or put together. Since I’ve been at home I have started being a classroom helper every year. They don’t call upon me often, but enough that I know how much work goes into making a class run smoothly.
But who helps the specials teachers? They don’t have a list of students reporting directly to them. Parents rarely see or talk to them outside of the brief interactions at school functions like the one last night. Heck, we don’t even take extra time to go see them for conferences. But their job is at least as hard, and probably sometimes harder than that of a classroom teacher. So I told him that if he ever needed help in the classroom to give me a call.
His face went through a myriad of emotions ranging from shock to joy. If I had to guess I may very well be the first parent volunteer he’s ever gotten. It’ll be worth it though. Anything I can do to help make his job a little easier so that he can keep on making music an important part of my children’s education.