Eagle County Schools superintendent: When saying goodbye also means saying hello (column)
A bright new school year is upon us. For some, the journey has already started. Last week, we said goodbye to Sophia, our 18-year-old daughter. She’s off to Colorado State University.
During the preparations for her departure, my mind wandered back to when she started kindergarten. Her mom and I were both extremely proud and excited for her new adventure, but we were worried at the same time. As she said her goodbyes to us this past Thursday, the same questions I had 13 years ago resurfaced. Will she feel safe? Will she find a place to fit in? Will she make friends?
Many parents in our valley are experiencing major transitions as the new school year begins. The concerns we have are universal. The emotions my wife and I felt in seeing Sophia off to college were the same ones we experienced when other children, Alex, Sam, Jared and Caleb, started kindergarten, then middle school, then high school and, for the older three, finally college.
Excitement is mixed with apprehension, and, yes, a little sadness at the years that have passed. No matter what the transition, it is very difficult to say goodbye to a piece of your heart as your children get older.
But are we saying goodbye?
I propose that we are not. Instead, as the Beatles said in “Hello, Goodbye,” we are not saying goodbye; we are saying hello to a bright future. We, as parents, get to experience, although at a distance, the wonder of seeing our children grow socially, emotionally and intellectually.
We get to participate in their joy of learning, the excitement of their new adventures, the thrill they have in meeting and connecting with new people and new ideas and the inevitable frustrations and tears that come from the unexpected challenges along the way. We get to see our kids’ stories develop right in front of our eyes.
One question I’ve been asked over and over during my years in education is: What is the most important thing I can do for my child as a parent? I don’t think there is one simple answer to that, but I do agree with the experts who say it is vital for parents to be involved and to interact with their children on a daily basis.
Of course schools and sports leagues always welcome volunteers, but for those parents who do not speak the language, or understand the school system or for working parents, interaction and involvement can come in the form of daily conversation about the school day. Delve into what is now called the social-emotional aspect of learning. Ask open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no or a grunt). Have conversations with your children. Engage.
When my wife and I became parents, we took this advice to heart and learned to engage with our children about their experiences during drives to practice, school or at the evening dinner table. We learned our kids’ stories. We met their friends. We played catch, cooked together, painted fences, backpacked and just spent time together.
As families with children starting the educational journey or with adults entering the world of college, we get to experience another year where stories will be written in the school house, on the field or slopes, at sleepovers or in the dorm. We get to be part of our children’s lives.
As you walk you kindergartener to class, or drop off your middle-schooler or wave as your high-schooler heads out the door, don’t think of it as a goodbye. As we saw our Sophie off to college, we were by her side, all of us saying hello to a bright future that is yet to be written.
Carlos Ramirez, Ed.D., is the superintendent of Eagle County Schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.