My daughter’s first day of school, in which I discuss my philosophy of education and mention feathered dinosaurs

My daughter starts kindergarten this September! How did I get here? I don’t ask this question out of despair or regret; quite the opposite. I am filled with joy and excitement, and, let’s be honest, more than a little wonderment. I guess the last few years since my daughter was born have been leading up to this point, but it still seems to have taken me by surprise. I remember being in kindergarten myself! How is it that my own daughter is now starting school? Seriously, I don’t mean to be overly dramatic about this, but I really am quite amazed.

I already have confidence that she will do fine in school. Just the other night we were watching a science programme and I couldn’t bring myself to send her to bed because she kept asking, “What do you know about planets? What do you know about the sun? What do know about volcanoes?” et cetera. It was exciting to share what little knowledge I had with her. She would occasionally come back with, “I know a little about volcanoes, just a little.” Just thinking about how much more she has yet to discover makes me feel all giddy inside!

I have yet to figure out how I will deal with certain situations, such as reluctance to do school work, potential problems with other students, potential clashes between us parents and the teachers, and so forth. These things I will deal with when or if they come up. I do know that I don’t want to be one of those parents who’s overbearing when it comes to my child’s education; it would be arrogant for me to assume such a role. I’m not some genius or polymath. There are educators out there who are much more skilled and qualified to teach my daughter about the world around us. While I try to remain current, I know that I am not up to date on many subjects, while others (math) I was never sharp at to begin with. If I were to reserve a role for myself, it would be to teach her, as best as I could, about critical thinking. Not that she has any trouble at present asking questions, and I’ll admit to sometimes showing annoyance at some of them, but I nevertheless wish for her to continue. At the same time, I want her to have the courage to say, “I don’t know,” and understand the importance of doing so. These three words are crucial in expanding knowledge and coming up with new ideas and ways of solving problems. In a world were people are expected to have all the answers, where children are quizzed and evaluated on remembering this or that data to fill in the multiple choice exam, we seem to have forgotten the humbling, and at the same time, empowering experience of honestly responding to a question with, “I don’t know.” Please don’t misunderstand, I am not lauding ignorance by any means. No, I reserve my admiration for honesty and a rational approach to knowledge. However, when seeking knowledge we must admit not only what it is we do not know, but also constantly reexamine what we do know and determine if it still holds up to the evidence. If I were to sum up my philosophy of education it would be with these three phrases: “I don’t know.” “Let’s find out.” “Show your work.” Admit that there are things beyond your current understanding, commit yourself to finding the answers, demonstrate that the answers you have arrived at are rational and can be shared with others.

I found myself thinking back to one of my favourite books when I was in early elementary. It was Dinosaurs and More Dinosaurs by M. Jean Craig. Not long ago I was at my parents’ home looking through it again. Wow! Quite a lot has come to light since it was written. (I found a blog post spotlighting the art from this very book) I can only guess at what my daughter will be learning in school that varies greatly from when I was her age. I am still a bit in awe of the fact that many dinosaur species, more than 20 genera, had feathers, even though this has been proven through fossil evidence over the past 10 years; I have a childhood of naked theropod images to overcome. I am intrigued by the prospect that she will come home with ideas that will challenge me to reexamine my understanding of things; I am looking forward to continuing to learn from my daughter, as she has already taught me so much.

I know, I know! We’re still dealing with kindergarten; let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. There are certain steps that have to be taken. First, we’ll have to make sure the camera is ready for the obligatory First Day of School picture. (mine featured a powder blue leisure suit) Then I’ll get all teary thinking about how my little girl had grown up so quickly. Next comes work, where I’ll most likely spend the whole day thinking about her. Finally, I’ll get to come home and learn all about her first day of school!

My daughter will learn much in the coming years, but I still expect I have many questions asked of me and I will do my best to answer them; but if I can’t, then I will honestly tell her, “I don’t know,” and I will try my best to help her by saying, “Let’s find out.”

Dinosaurs were cool in my day…

… now they’re freakin’ awesome!