April 12, 1961 was a day that the world was forever changed.
In less than 2 hours , Yuri Gagarin “slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” *
I was an elementary school student that day, my eyes saw the reports of his flight.
My eyes have also seen all that followed. They were in the Lincoln Elementary School gymnasium watching television on February 20, 1962, when John Glenn became the first American to orbit earth. They were in the gymnasium at the Chase Elementary School on January 28, 1986 when we watched Space Shuttle Challenger explode shortly after launch.
My eyes have seen both the triumphs and the tragedies. They have shed tears at both.
Personal sidebar – our son started working for Lockheed-Martin after his high school graduation. His first project was to work with four men the ages of his parents to build heat shields for Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. These eyes also watched the reports as both landed successfully on the Martian surface. His heat shields worked. And our son, at age 18, built something that has littered another planet. We wouldn’t have thought that possible on the night he was born, but life has a way of changing from what we expect at some point in time. End personal sidebar
They have seen many changes in many aspects of life, except for our schools.
I work in a middle school that is not fundamentally different from the junior high I attended. I have worked in elementary schools that were not fundamentally different from Lincoln Elementary School in the early 1960’s. We do some things differently, but schedules haven’t changed. Groupings of students haven’t changed. For the most part, attitudes haven’t changed.
I have also worked in schools that have been classified as “Pockets of Excellence.” They were fundamentally different from the schools I attended. Schedules were different, groupings were different, they were about learning more than they were about teaching. Because they were grounded in attitudes and beliefs that had changed. The irony is that they were considered Pockets of Excellence, not mainstream schools.
Every day, I am honored to be part of the lives of about 1,100 adolescents. What will their eyes have seen by the time they are the ages of their parents? What will they have seen by the time they are my age?
Are we preparing them to litter another planet?
Or pass a test?
“Up, up the long delirious burning blue, I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle, flew; and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God.” *
I want for our students what I wanted for our children. I hope we are creating more litterbugs.
And so it goes…
*High Flight – John G. Magee, Jr.