In “An Open Letter to My Son’s Kindergarten Teacher,” Phillip Kovacs outs himself as one of those parents.
“You know, the ones who are constantly checking in, perhaps over protective to a fault,” Kovacs writes in his letter, which ran last month in the Huffington Post.
Then, as if he were at the world’s most uptight cocktail party, Kovacs unfurls his resume.
“In my defense I feel like I know a bit more about this whole school thing than most parents. Having taught kids and now teaching teachers, I have learned a good deal about what goes on in classrooms nowadays.
“There is also the matter of me teaching university courses that deal with educational policy (yuk!) and educational psychology (wow!). Did you know that most of our current educational policy flies in the face of science?”
Stick with Kovacs, though, and you hear something important.
“Neuroscience, for example, tells us no two brains are alike, which makes me wonder why we are trying to make all of the children common.”
And one of the brains that Kovacs is wondering about is his son’s.
Kovacs’ son “can count to ten when we are counting Angry Birds, but he has some trouble with transfer. Everything above 12 is a mystery to him, but he’s eager to discover what goes on up there!”
Kovacs also has other worries.
“It concerns me a bit that you are going to require him to ‘With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers,’” Kovacs writes, citing part of the Common Core standards for kindergarten.
“I appreciate the guidance and support from adults, in fact I expect it, but I’m confused about him publishing his writing. You see, he can’t write.”
The gist of the letter? Please give Kovacs’ son the chance to be a kid and play. No worksheets and no standardized tests; just the chance to engage in age-appropriate activities.
What does Kovacs want his son to learn?
“I’d like him to end the year a little kinder, a little more courageous, and a little more compassionate… [to learn] perseverance, impulse control, resiliency, and how to think about thinking… Most importantly, I need him to leave your classroom loving to learn.”
Kovacs promises to help the teacher by building learning centers, if there aren’t any. His goal is to create a dynamic educational experience for his son and his son’s classmates.
“I think we can change the world’s trajectory by raising inquisitive beings, and the place to start is in your classroom,” Kovacs writes. “Please let me know what I can do to support you this year.”
Kovacs is also spreading the word about kindergarten and education on Twitter. His handle is @phillipkovacs.
He’s not alone. Laurie Levy, a retired early education administrator published “My Wish for Kindergarteners” on the Huffington Post.
“The nation’s five-year-olds will file into their schools soon, their faces so young and sweet and innocent,” Levy writes. “I hope their year is filled with enough happy moments to fill those cute and somewhat overlarge backpacks they proudly carry. At the same time, I worry. Reflecting back on four generations of kindergarten experiences in my family, despite all the changes to education made over these years, there are more similarities than differences.”
“We are still,” Levy says, “forcing these young children to conform to expectations that may not be developmentally appropriate for them.”
There is some good news. Kovacs, at least, has had a happy ending that he summed up in a tweet.
“So I met my son’s Kindergarten teacher and she is awesome. I did not give her the letter. I gave her my ear.”