The degrees of my good luck are incalculable, in Sinagpore Math or Everyday Math or anything else. I have good health, a wonderful family, and a child who qualified, based on her pre-K test, for a range of "gifted and talented" programs. This lucky circumstance plays out in kooky paths, though, as any parent with similar good fortune can understand. There isn't room for all at the most overcrowded schools, and the Department of Education essentially runs a lottery for the available slots.
Parents can feel a little powerless. Nobody knows exactly where our child may end up being placed, so we visit a range of schools in our district (or beyond) . How can we make up our minds about which schools to rank top - or bottom - on the list?
I came up with my own arbitrary rule. If the school offers no physical education classes for kindergartners, I wish it success but my wife and I will rank it low. I have three reasons for this rule. All aid me in strategy.
First, phys ed provides an alternate outlet for the skills that qualified kids for G&T programs. Physical education imparts the value of collaboration, patience, isolation and second-order thinking - and it teaches that results can vary from game to game and day to day. Kids who are gifted and talented at basketball may need to slow down to learn English grammar- and vice versa. Both journeys inculcate crucial self-confidence. Put another way: if my kid can learn Mandarin, she can learn isometrics. And if you think she doesn't need to learn both, you have a different theory than I do about what makes a community of learners.<!--more-->
Second, phys ed can cut across socioeconomic lines. The son of a pair of Columbia astrophysicists and the girl who'll be the first in her family to go to college need each other to get the ball down the court. Phys ed is full of moments that prove how cooperation leads to success for all.
Third, phys ed provides a welcome relief from academic pressure. One principal on a G&T tour this week described her students as "suffering from perfectionism." Stipulate for a second that perfectionism is an illness. Can't a little physical release provide at least a topical cure? It worked for Bill Bradley and Dave Bing. Story time is engrossing: art is expressive; music transcends, but phys ed delivers a vital message to these young achievers: You can always play again and do better. And the score matters a lot less than what you learned about how to play.
It's a message some anxious parents might welcome in the next couple of weeks. Email me here if you're up for a post-application pickup game!