In a couple of weeks, both Tess and Tucker will be starting their first day at brand new schools. They’ll know no one, have all new teachers, new surroundings, and, hopefully, new opportunities. I’m not sure they’re totally at peace with these changes, but as I keep telling them, it’s the kind of stuff that builds character. (I keep regaling them with school switching stories of my own, the most challenging being when my mom moved us out to New Jersey from Chicago when I was beginning 6th grade and three days before school started I was wading barefoot in a creek, stepped on a broken bottle, and ended up with 10 stitches in the bottom of my foot and a pair of crutches for the first week of classes. Talk about character building.) Wendy and I have been trying to prepare them for this shift as best we can, and while I know it’s a bit scary for them, I’m really hopeful the change will be good for them on a lot of different levels.

What I’m most hopeful for, however, is that their stories about school will change. Last year, far too much of the reporting about their days started with “I got a ___ on my ___ test!” or “Yes, I’ve got homework” (said in the same voice as one might say “Yes, I’ve got ringworm.”) School was something that rarely sparked a conversation about learning. Usually, it was a topic to be avoided or ignored. I hope to hear more excitement this year, more passion about learning, more thinking and doing. To that end, I’ve been coming up with a mental list of the types of questions I’m hoping they might answer:

What did you make today that was meaningful?

What did you learn about the world?

Who are you working with?

What surprised you?

What did your teachers make with you?

What did you teach others?

What unanswered questions are you struggling with?

How did you change the world in some small (or big) way?

What’s something your teachers learned today?

What did you share with the world?

What do you want to know more about?

What did you love about today?

What made you laugh?

I think their answers to those questions (and others that I’m hoping you might add below) would tell me more about what they learned than any test or quiz or worksheet that they brought home for me to sign. And here’s the deal; I expect them to be talking answers to these types of questions every day. As a parent, I think I have every right to expect that my kids are immersed in spaces where learning is loved and enjoyed and shared every single day. Classrooms where they are engaged in meaningful work that makes them think, a majority of time doing stuff that can’t be measured by some impersoanl state test. (I can give them software to do much of that.) Where the adults that surround them are models for that learning work themselves. Is that too much to ask?

New schools, new opportunities, renewed expectations. We’ll see how it goes…