I love this picture. It's old. It's beginning to fade. Some of the color has rubbed off.
It is a picture of the boys on Beaufait. Two of my boys are in this picture - Zach, with the big smile, on the right, and Jake, the farthest left.
The boy in the purple shirt is now a PhD in Civil Engineering.
The youngest boy just left for Marine boot camp last Sunday.
Jake has studied graphic and web design and is looking for a job. Zach works full-time and goes to school.
Many years have passed since this picture was taken. Yet when I see this picture and know who these children have become I can't help but think of Mrs. Fraser, Mrs. Reith, Mr. (now Dr.) Dib, Mrs. Gawel, Mr. Hunwick, Mr. Bens, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Quinn, Mr. Stackpoole, Ms. McGuire, and many other teachers who influenced my children in positive and profound ways.
No longer do I have young children to get ready for the start of school. While I anticipate and look forward to the start of school it is because I am the Superintendent not because I have children who are anticipating that first day of school.
As a parent I wanted each school year to be perfect.
It never was.
But our family survived and my boys survived. How? Here are lessons I learned as my boys went through school. They may, or may not, be helpful as you prepare for another new school year.
Establish a good routine. My wife and I established a bed time and a time to get up in the morning for our children. We learned this lesson the hard way. There were too many nights and too many mornings that did not go well because we were rushing. A routine helped us manage more successfully.
There will be times to vary, but a routine helps establish other things. If everyone knows when bedtime is then it is easier to know when to start homework and when to start baths and when to start bedtime reading. It also made it easier in the morning when one child took a long time to wake up and one child could get ready in an instant.
Read to your children. Everyday! My wife and I would take turns reading. We read to our boys up through middle school.
Reading has many positive academic benefits - increased fluency, increased vocabulary, increased sense of language. But it also has many social-emotional connections. My sons and I cried reading Bridge to Terabithia. We had wonderful discussions reading Jurassic Park.
There is no right way to read. My oldest kept very still while we read, right beside me in the bed. My youngest couldn't sit still and played with toys and moved around the whole time. Just read - that's the most important thing!
My experience taught me that teachers, principals, bus drivers, school secretaries, and food service workers cared for my children. They probably didn't care as much as I did - but they cared a lot! Teachers and principals did their jobs because they wanted what was best for my children. They invested themselves everyday to help my children find success.
Sometimes success was elusive. Sometimes things don't go well. But it was not because the people who worked in schools didn't like my kids, didn't know what to do, or didn't care.
When things went wrong - as they inevitably did - I learned that I needed to take the time to talk to the people directly involved. I learned to approach them with the belief that they cared for my children - because they did.
We worked together. We tried to find solutions. Sometimes we didn't go in the direction that I thought we should. When that happened I sometimes thought that the end would be catastrophe. It never was. Things sorted themselves out.
When things didn't work out like I thought they should it was not because the teacher or administrator was trying to be mean or didn't care. The teacher or administrator or coach was making what they considered to be the best decision possible.
I also learned that my boys sometimes did stupid things. When they did it was best to help my boys see that it was stupid and accept the consequences instead of trying to get them out of it. My hope is that they learned that I loved them and that they also learned a lesson.
There are lots of things that I learned raising three boys. What I learned most of all is that schools were great places for my boys to learn and grow and mature into great adults!