Every time I watch a movie, the kid getting ready for his first day of school is depicted in the same way. A summer of memorable adventures is over. His mom is telling him to drink his O.J. and he’s hurrying up to get his backpack and start that short but fast run to the bus stop.
The bus pulls up and mom waves goodbye. A new school year has begun and a season of growing and learning has arrived.
It’s a scene we can all relate to because it has been a moment that we have all experienced. Think about it. We’ve all had that first day of school, and almost all of us had parents that waved goodbye to us, as we were stepping into the bright yellow bus.
What a privilege. Millions of American children are gearing up for a new year in public school education. Buying pencils, pens and highlighters. And as the smiles of kids in their new school outfits can be seen in school playgrounds across our nation, somehow the happiness of children is not translating to success on paper.
America has been slipping in worldwide rankings. Students are graduating school, but many of them are lacking the skills to enter the workforce. At colleges in most states, remedial courses are offered to students that are tested and placed in reading, writing and math levels under the university level.
What is happening in American schools? From 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. children are in the classroom. Aside from recess, their time is spent in the classroom with passionate educators.
I’ve met many of these teachers. They have the power to change lives, and many of them have. You know them too and remember them with kindness, for their abilities to understand you and inspire you to do what your heart desires.
But maybe students cannot be successful in the classroom, or are less likely to be successful, unless they have a strong foundation built for them outside the classroom.
Americans continue to value free, public education. A privilege that remains out of reach for millions of people across the globe. I don’t have children, however just by looking around, and observing our communities, we are falling short of our obligation to our youth. Our obligation to provide the values necessary to help them be successful while they are away from us, in the classroom.
I don’t know if we will ever get to the bottom of why students are failing on report cards, but walking on the graduation stage, with diploma in hand and a great big smile. A smile for a future that won’t be as easy as the one they imagine on graduation night. We can do better and our children deserve it.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on August 3, 2016.