From the mind of Mom: Looking onward to renewal

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2019

Nearly four months into my newfound status as a mother of two, I’ve found few greater joys than those precious hours between 8:30 and 11 p.m.

It’s those hours, when the house grows quiet and calm, when the work is done, the dishwasher humming, that I can finally disengage with some mindless, responsibility-free scrolling on ye ol’ cellular device.

Or that’s what I think:

“Thank you for enrolling your child at ______ Elementary. The next step is to register your child for kindergarten.”

The words, sent in an email to my personal account, hit me in one of those moments, with the screen inches in front of my face as the lone source of light in the room. My chest tightens, and my eyes flit over toward where my five-year-old is sprawled on a trundle bed.

In the past few weeks, my world has been inundated with grand plans for schools throughout Rowan-Salisbury’s spanning school district. Educators are exploring the newfound freedoms of “Renewal,” legislated and charter-like flexibilities that are allowing them to flip tradition on its ear in effort to pursue not just what’s mandated, but what works — and will work — for each school’s unique student population.

And their enthusiasm for this freedom and innovation shows. We’re seeing concepts we’ve only wished for as parents: a return to practical, real-world concepts in curricula, personalized instruction, explorations in globalism, sustainability and more.

Why then, as I stared that night at my sleeping, mumbling child did the smallest part of me liken a request for registration to a voice goading me to close my eyes, turn my head and fall blindly forward into…what?

As a parent of a rising kindergartner, these past few weeks of discussion have provided small sips of promise that I was previously searching for outside of the realm of public education. In seeking the right fit for “us,” for “her,” I’ve looked into it all: dual language immersion, Montessori schooling, the list goes on. I’ve weighed and debated it all, factored and refactored budgets with the possibility of private schooling.

And just when I’m ready to take the plunge, I talk to an Rowan educator. I hear new plans. I see the enthusiasm, the renewed spark and I think, “well, this I can get behind.”

But its these same conversations that also bring me back to the feeling of a proverbial trust fall. It’s the words of Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Smith and Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody when they speak of Rowan-Salisbury’s pioneer status in Renewal. We’re paving the path, they say. There’s no instruction manual to follow, we’re making this up as we go along.

These are the words where I pause, where my heart catches in my throat and I think: do I want my daughter to be part of this trial run? Do I want them to learn, to try and — potentially — fail with her?

My inner mama bear says “no, never!” But my Rowan County born-and-bred soul can stop and rationalize. Once more, my mind goes back to these conversations I’ve had again and again, to the presentations I’ve seen, the data presented.

Rowan is paving a new pathway in public education for North Carolina, but the means by which it’s creating this new vision are far from experimental. Each measure, each dream and intervention are based on evidence-based practices proven to meet needs like those of our county’s unique learners. We may try and find something doesn’t work or needs tweaking along the way, but does that mean failure?

Is trying, failing and adjusting anything different than the experiences we face at each milestone as new parents? We give up the baby food in exchange for baby-led weaning, swap out pull-ups for the three-day potty training method, or the other way, or something else altogether.

And our kids still learn, evidenced by the clean plates, the dry beds in the morning.

Adjustment doesn’t mean failure. It means growth, and that’s something I’m all for.