A few nights ago, Mike and I tried to keep a conversation going with Liam at dinner. Some nights, conversation is easy. In fact, we can barely get a word in ourselves. This was not one of those nights.
"How was school?"
"What center did you choose?"
"How was Tumble Bus?"
"Did you get a gummy bear at the end?"
"What color did you get?"
"What's your favorite activity?"
"What does Lukey like?"
Finally, I got a bite while inquiring about Tumble Bus, an activity offered through his school.
"Liam, do you do activities or does everyone do their own thing?"
His eyes lit up. "We do a really fun activity! Miss Amanda says our names and then we say, 'here.'"
Mike and I looked at each other. We were paying $25 a month for Liam to enjoy attendance. "This is your favorite activity? Are you sure that it's an activity?"
"Uh-huh. Miss Amanda calls me and I say, 'here.' Then she calls Luke and Luke says, 'here.'"
Really? $400 a year for Tumble Bus and his favorite activity is attendance? "Liam, I think what Miss Amanda is doing is taking attendance."
My five year old rolled his eyes at me. "No, she jots everything down in a notebook." At this point, Mike and I were laughing.
I giggled at my son's misconstrued views of attendance, comparing it to children who play with the boxes of their toys. As the days passed, I thought about the idea of being present. As autonomy develops, I become more and more protective of his "bubble." The days of parental control reigning over almost every moment of his day are numbered. He may get to choose whether he eats an apple of a banana, which shoes he wears to school, or which toys to entertain himself with in his room. However, adults control the majority of his daily life. We take him to school, swim lessons, and play dates. We provide him with three pairs of school shoes, various character shirts, and (mostly) healthy sweets while preventing him from drinking soda and full octane juice.
That simple act of attendance on Tumble Bus allows his to be present. He gets to announce that he is present and ready for new adventures. How nice with it be if we were allowed that opportunity more often. As always, I am thinking about how this relates to my students. How do I allow my students to be present? Sometimes, it is as simple as asking them to take a break, stand up, and say hello to classmates. I stand at the door to greet my students with high fives and fist pumps as they enter my classroom. Thanks to our new blended learning model, students get to decide how they learn, navigating their way through playlists on Power Points, articles, videos, and practice exercises. In a world of limited autonomy, how do I truly give my students, and my son, a voice?