Experienced coaches and, for that matter, experienced athletes know that warming up is important before one goes as fast as possible. The same goes for throwing, kicking, lifting and any other physical activity. Warming up is important.
Similarly, experienced teachers know that children who learn fundamental skills in reading, math, science and other subjects will, in the long run, outperform students who jump ahead without a solid grounding in fundamentals.
It may be exciting to see a young runner take off at full speed and be way ahead of the other children, until a muscle is pulled or a tendon is torn. The exhilaration of the head start is lost as others pass by. Similarly, it can be defeating for a child, who appeared to be advanced in an academic study to realize that others have caught up and surged ahead. And possibly, the real disappointment may be for the parents/guardians and other adults who were celebrating the head starts while not realizing that the foundation for future success was not in place.
Hopefully, we have all experienced teachers, coaches and bosses who make work and play fun. Because elementary school and high school were personal drudgeries for me, during my professional career I have advocated for school to be a positive learning environment for children. I am a believer in the idea that hard work can be fun.
The other day I saw two of our Middle School students come out of the library and explode into a sprint across the courtyard toward the Sher-Razook Center. There was a moment of pure joy for me. I love seeing people go full speed ahead. At the same time, I was holding my breath and hoping that neither of the students would crash into another student or trip and crash on the alumni bricks. As much as I love seeing our students moving at full speed, I have learned the importance of warming up and learning the fundamentals.
There are times when one may wonder why a teacher is having students do things that the children think they already know. If and when that happens, and if and when a child questions the review, encourage your child to ask the teacher the purpose of the review. You may want to ask the teacher yourself. There may be times when students think they can go faster. Some may be ready. I have faith that our experienced teachers will let those who are ready to move forward jump ahead. At the same time, I believe our experienced teachers will resist the pleas of students who want to move on when they do not have a firm grounding in the concepts and skills that will lead to long term success. The learning process is an interesting dance. Knowing how to lead and how to follow allows everyone to shine.
There is a wonderful expression often seen on team shirts at tournaments: “Win the last game.”
One of the reasons baseball fans are focused on the wild card race is they know that the team that finishes strong can be the champion regardless of the setbacks from earlier in the year. And so it goes with learning. It might be nice to be at the front from wire to wire but I am happy celebrating every child who crosses the finish line and meets all goals knowing that they are ready for the next race and a bright future.