Ah….the start of another school year. New book bags, new outfits, notebooks, binders and pencils. New attitudes. New possibilities. Another chance to get things right.
I love fall! And although it’s still blisteringly hot outside, I’m already feeling a change in the air. Before we know it, leaves will be changing colors in places where fall actually exists in a weather sense. Where we live there is only an almost imperceptible transition from hot to less hot. Fall has to happen in your heart when you live in coastal South Carolina.
For me the turning always starts to happen right around the first day of school. When I was younger I looked forward to the new school year because it signaled the return of structure, time with friends, learning new things. Actually though, I have to admit that my joy over the new school year was always tempered with a certain amount of dread. Would I like my teachers? Would they like me? Would I miss the bus?
As an adult and a parent, the new school year means something else altogether. Starting tomorrow my kids get to continue on their personal learning journeys. Instead of being the orchestrator, I will resume my role as a sideline cheerleader. A very vocal, outspoken, involved sideline cheerleader. OK, more like a quarterback than a cheerleader, but who’s keeping track?
Because I am a former classroom teacher, I understand the importance of staying involved with my kids’ schooling and establishing a good relationship with their teachers and administrators. I think that my role as founder of Freedom Readers, though, also influences the way I define “staying involved”. As I pack my kids’ lunches and head off to school with them and make sure they are settled on the first day, I think about the single moms who have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. I think about the kids who will eat free lunch the way I did until the day I graduated high school. I think about the fathers who will want to attend PTA meetings, but can’t. I think about the parents who shy away from schools because of past hurts they’ve endured there.
I know in my heart that there is little difference between my kids and the kids of the families I just described. All of the students come to school the capacity to know more and the curiosity that drives us all. It’s just that some students lack support, for whatever reason. Some very intelligent students end up having to figure things out on their own when the last dismissal bell rings.I wonder who will read to them and help them with homework. I wonder if the school will offer them the opportunity to stay longer in situations where there is no one at home to help.
These wondering are the reason why Freedom Readers continues to be a presence in the community. It is our hope that we will offer support to families who value education and are seeking aid in achieving their academic goals. On September 6 we begin our fall session at Darden Terrace. We are in desperate need of dedicated, high energy tutors who can give one hour a week to help one child read better. Without the support of the community, however, this program fades into nothingness leaving our current young scholars and the families of some talented youth we haven’t even met yet, to navigate the school year alone.
Though fall can be seen as a season of slowing down and dormancy, it is also a wonderful season of rebirth. At Freedom Readers, it’s a season of second chances and new starts. It’s a season of opening new doors to an exciting school year by offering all our young people the skills and tools they need to make this year their best yet. And it’s a season of reminding all of us that the best is yet to come.