Written from my parent/educator perspective for other parents.
As an educator, I am often intrigued by parents’ opinions of their child’s school experience. Many times I hear parents’ compliment some innovative projects/classrooms, and this makes me exceedingly happy. Contrarily, I also see praises of age-old practices that have little relevance in today’s classroom. I have done quite a bit of thinking about why parents enjoy these passé learning examples and what I have deducted is that many parents are afflicted by “The Candyland™ Effect”: a phenomena (coined by me) in which parents are so filled with nostalgia they forget to look forward.
Candyland™ holds fond memories for children of the 80’s. These children are now the parents of today’s students, including me. As parents we want our children to enjoy many of the same experiences we had as children. Now, we play Candyland™ with our children because it is a tradition. This is similar to how we may return to the same vacation spots, celebrate birthdays at the same restaurant, and eat the same items at holiday gatherings.
The Candyland™ effect can also be seen in our educational system. We all went to school. We were all students. We all have memories of school. For most people (whether they liked school or not) walking into the building where they were educated is nostalgic. It’s like Candyland™. Considering that many of the schools that our children attend appear physically similar to the schools we attended, the Candyland™ Effect comes into play when parents enter their child’s school. Parents feel comforted, and this is a good thing. Parents should feel content about where their children spend their days. But, in order to grow we need to step out of our comfort zones. What I am asking of parents is simple. Take a step back and recognize the nostalgic feelings you have about school and then ask these questions: In addition to Candyland™ what other games (skills, content, curriculum) should my child play? How should my child play these games? (alone, in a group, on paper, digitally, virtually)?
As parents we want more for our children we had for ourselves. Having more starts with education. It starts in our classrooms. If we want our children to have more we need to prepare them to do more. We need to embrace the advances in technology, communication, and networking. When we leverage the power of these opportunities our children will excel. We need to bask in the nostalgia of our own classroom experiences and recognize that our children will have the same nostalgic feelings when they are adults with different content and experiences. We need to recognize that this is OK. We need to encourage and support innovative and progressive teachers/administrators. We need to allow and encourage these educators to create new experiences for our children.
It is our duty as parents to educate ourselves about what the current research tells us is in the best interest of our students. Ask questions. Share positive experiences. Remember to keep looking forward while reminiscing about the past.