I went to a square dance tonight with my daughter, my husband, and about 150 other young Girl Scouts and their parents. (My son is at a party of his own.) L. definitely enjoyed herself, pigtails swinging, and my husband was a wonderful dance partner who patiently taught her steps and do-si-do'ed for a long, long time.
I wish every girl there were so lucky. There were masses of parents around, but perhaps half were dancing with their daughters. The other girls were left to their own devices, which more often than not meant swinging madly around until one of them slid across the floor or running around--you know, just adding chaos to the event--while their parents either chatted or checked their blackberries. As an extra adult, I asked several girls if they would like a dance partner, but dancing with someone else's mom was not an offer many of them took up. So, I had some time to observe the scene and ponder.
This happened to come right after I finished Rafe Esquith's book Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire. So much fodder for thought, especially his emphasis on behavior, standards, and striving for excellence with every minute. According to this teaching veteran, his students would never have behaved like that. They would have remained attentive so that they would have learned the dance steps. They wouldn't be crazy, to make sure they weren't interfering with anyone else's efforts to dance. They would have participated, had fun, and left feeling like they really earned their Girl Scout square dance badge. I feel like my daughter can feel that way--not because she has perfect behavior--she doesn't--but because she had a loving adult attending to her and making sure she got something meaningful out of the evening. I found myself asking, how would Rafe Esquith handle this situation? Of course, they weren't students in tonight's context. They were daughters, and their parents were present. They just weren't present.
By the way, I highly recommend this book. It's a quick read and gave me much to chew on about the possibilities of a single classroom.