I was disturbed by a recent article in the Dallas Morning News describing the progress of Dallas ISD in improving the quality of its prekindergarten program. I was not disturbed by the tone of the article - it was quite positive. I was not disturbed by the emphasis the district is placing on pre-K - I commend the district for increasing funding, for adopting best practices, for focusing on developing the capacity of its pre-K teachers, and for being intentional in identifying and enrolling an increasing number of eligible students. I believe in the importance of early childhood exposure to the concepts of phonemic awareness and numeracy, and fully support early intervention efforts like Head Start and prekindergarten programs, especially in highly impoverished populations like that served by DISD.
What I found disturbing was the reference that "only __ percent of all kindergartners started school on grade level." Being defined as at or below "grade level" at the beginning of kindergarten, while perhaps convenient for describing specific skills that can be measured by standardized tests, is entirely at odds with what we know about how young children learn and develop. It is contrary to the meaning of the word kindergarten, which originally in German meant "childrens' garden". It reinforces the standardized industrial age model of education, where age is the primary factor that determines what a student should learn. As Ken Robinson describes in one of his most watched Ted Talks, it is the beginning of the process of dulling creativity.
Contrast that with the Finnish approach to kindergarten, as described in this Atlantic article by Tim Walker, The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergarteners of Finland.
Throughout the morning I noticed that the kindergartners played in two different ways: One was spontaneous and free form, while the other was more guided and pedagogical. In fact, Finland requires its kindergarten teachers to offer playful learning opportunities—including both kinds of play—to every kindergartner on a regular basis, according to Arja-Sisko Holappa, a counselor for the Finnish National Board of Education....“Play is a very efficient way of learning for children,” she told me. “And we can use it in a way that children will learn with joy.”
Imagine what it would be like if all our schools were places where children learn with joy.
One Saturday a few weeks ago, I attended two funerals and a wedding - each in itself a cause for reflection. The first funeral was for a colleague who died unexpectedly on the way home from work - an apparent heart attack. He was roughly my own age, and one day he was reviewing bid tabulations and calling vendors - performing the routine tasks of his job - and the next he was gone.
We worked together for more than 15 years and always got along well, but as I listened to family members describing him and the times they had shared I was struck by two things; 1) I didn't really know him, and 2) that if I had made the effort to know him better I would have learned that we had several common interests. Turns out we might have been friends.
The second funeral was for a 92 year old lady from church. As it turns out another colleague is married to her grandson - we had no idea of the connection until seeing one another at the funeral. Again I was reminded of the importance of building relationship, of taking the time to know people, of spending time on things that matter.
That evening we celebrated the wedding of the third daughter of longtime family friends. An especially poignant moment occurred during the ceremony as the bride's oldest sister walked down the aisle carrying her week-old daughter. She and her husband had lost their first child to a hereditary condition shortly after birth; there was not a dry eye in the house as the entire crowd of guests stood and applauded.
Life has a number of passages - birth, weddings, and funerals - all remind us that as life flows on, the relationships we nurture are the things that make the journey rich.
I recently began being more intentional about shaping my digital footprint in anticipation of retiring in a few years. I secured a domain for a website, became more active on Twitter, and set up this blog with the intent of demonstrating my vast accumulation of knowledge and wisdom :) I did not intend at the time for my initial post to be about Prostate Cancer. However...
In July during my annual physical my lab results indicated that my PSA was elevated. I was referred to a urologist, who determined after examining me that a biopsy was appropriate. On August 17, I learned that I had a relatively aggressive form of Prostate Cancer. Over the next couple of weeks I met with a surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and a medical oncologist, and engaged in a great deal of research. We determined that surgery was the best option for my specific circumstance, and on September 15 I underwent a radical prostatectomy.
I am now 15 days into recovery and doing well. My pathology report came back indicating negative margins and negative lymph involvement; i.e. no indication of cancer remaining in my body. My prognosis is very good.
I encourage awareness and testing for all of my male friends and relatives, especially those over 50. Prostate Cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men, but also one of the most treatable, especially if discovered early.