In second grade Eldest made this ball field for his 100 days in school project. He lived and breathed baseball. He learned to read because he needed the stats on his favorite teams and players. He watched the ESPN highlights before school to keep up with all the news surrounding baseball. Of course, he played the game, it was the one thing he found that grounded him.
He played baseball up until college. He made some decisions based on his future rather than immediate gratification, and things didn’t quite play out how he thought they might. Regardless, he missed the team atmosphere and joined his college rugby team. The team won the small college national rugby championship that year. The team became a brotherhood he had never expected, and it is a journey he still continues traveling as he ties up his senior year of college.
Two weeks ago he texted me and asked me if I could proof a paper he wrote for one of his classes. I figured it was another engineering paper with tons of information I’d know nothing about, but English is still English and I can proof those things which apply to written language.
However, this turned out to be a paper for his third required university course work classes. All students must take three semesters of a continuing education course which involves morals, ethics, personal growth, and an examination of you as an individual as well as on a global scale. The first two are required in your first year (even for transfer students) and the last in your second to last semester before gradation. This paper was something beyond what I expected and those words from my parents and grandparents rang so loud while it read it, “He’ll grow up and surprise you one day, just be patient.” The prompt itself surprised me a bit:
I teach public school and the pressure is on us to make kids keenly aware that argument writing is the main focus in college. But between my two sons I have found that they write far more narrative and informational writing. This still rings true into Eldest’s senior year.
When I read his paper I was taken aback to say the least. He wrote about how his life had changed through many avenues one being the obsession he had with baseball and the change he found overtime through rugby. Another was his major influences; one influence being my mother and another his own father which were ideas based around always giving it your all on the field no matter where the chips may lie.
“[my grandmother an Olympic 2 time gold medal winner, and my father an NCAA decorated athlete] Together they raised me to be graceful in victory and humble in defeat, but always a dedicated hard worker providing the best performance throughout the game.”
But his academic and career pathways were founded on both his father and me placing an emphasis upon his academic skills rather than his extra curricular activities, as well as placing rules and regulations upon him and his siblings that required him to be an active member in our family. He placed family meals and our free-flowing conversations about our days, our thoughts, and our own disagreements as one of the top reasons he has found success outside our home.
“In retrospect, my parents were right and I am thankful for their guidance.”
Then he ended with the part that pushed me into tears:
“I am traditionally a word minimalist, but I do make it a point to have the words I do say be meaningful and important. This reserved part of my personality may be here to stay, but through the foundation built by my family, close friends, professors, and coworkers I strive daily to become a better man and have set goals to make a positive impact with my future endeavors.”
It was all so true, and I know him so well, that he did write from the heart for the assignment and it is the first one I did not feel like I needed to stamp the BS sign and send it back to him!
All of these things were insightful to read because as a parent you never know if what you are doing is right. There are no manuals, no self-help books, no cookie cutter models or recipes to follow. It is the great experiment which every parent sets sail on and hopes beyond all reason they do the job successfully, because you only get one chance and if you mess it up it is something you cannot get back.
Flash forward to yesterday and he called me early in the morning on his way to rugby practice. I teased him and asked what I got on my senior paper. He laughed but started into the things he feels would make kids far more prepared and successful in college and where public education fails students.
- Student should write more narratives and have freedom of choice based on a topic rather than a pre-scripted format. His college professors axed the pre-scripted five paragraph essay day one and refused to read anything that was submitted that way.
- Students should be asked to create lab reports based on an outcome and they need to be able to construct the experiment themselves. Students must know how to fail and be able to write why things failed and what should change in the future to meet the objective. He understands that lab equipment is expensive, so the cookie cutter experiments in all subjects are affordable and achieve the correct outcome. He noted three things he did in his public school career that had the most impact:
- He was asked to build a bridge that could handle a specified payload with only toothpicks and glue.
- He was asked to find physics problem and provide a solution to help promote something in the future. He wrote a paper with physics calculations based on the new bats [at the time the baseball bats for high school had just changed over to a new material and the adjustments for both pitches and hitters created a strange playing field]
- In his IB course work he was afforded the time and research to write on anything that was plaguing the political arena either nationally or internationally. He chose to research, report, and create solutions for campaign finance reform.
- Finally, he noted that families in general are failing students. He knows there are extenuating circumstances that surround families and how they raise their children, but if the student has no support at home why do they care to do well in school if that is not made a priority. As a culture we need to change that family component if we want to change the course for future generations.
At the end of his diatribe I sat silent on the end of the phone. Most of this is stuff we’ve never discussed, because I am often too busy handling the immediate issues of our family and what each offspring might need or the husband. I don’t very often share my own philosophical pragmatic views of education overall with them. I was waiting until they were older if the topic came up. But he hit three areas right on the head and most of which I actually work very hard to teach in my 180 days with students each year.
Inevitably, the point I see happening here is that Eldest is turning out to be a man [that term itself is shocking for a momma] who actually has some depth of character. He thinks about things in a far less self centered way over the last four years. It also reinforces, for both Mr. and me, that we didn’t mess up so bad along the way while raising him. I am certain he will need therapy in some way for things we completely FUBAR’d, but for now, I feel a little more secure in his ability to spread his wings and make some solid decisions for his future. it should also make me worry a little less about where he might head after he graduates in May. [or not!]