Teachers across the district are gearing up and planning for the start of the school year. Like students, they too will be nervous on the first day of school, even if this year is their 25th first day of school. Beneath the anxiousness that comes with a new school year is the excitement to get to know their new students, to teach what they love and to see young minds get excited with new learning. 

Families can join in this excitement, too. Throughout the school year, I encourage parents, guardians, grandparents and other caring adults to have frequent conversations with their student about what he or she is learning. While driving in the car or gathered around the dinner table ask your learner to share what they are learning and discussing in the classroom. 

These conversations will provide families with rich insight into what happens in our classrooms and a first-hand account of the discussions, curricula and resources teachers are using to teach the Minnesota standards and district learner outcomes. Equally valuable will be the opportunity for families to hear what their students are thinking and how they are processing what they are learning. 

Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thinking. When students think about their learning and describe it to others, deeper learning is taking place in the brain. We know that the brain is exceptionally powerful and adept at deep and complex thinking and learning, especially when the student interacts with the concepts they are learning. 

This process can also help parents and family members stay informed about their child’s education and get involved if there are challenges. 

Our role as educators is to teach the Minnesota standards and our district’s defined learner outcomes and align curriculum and instruction to these standards. The mission is to teach in a way that provides comprehensive perspectives and viewpoints, and to do so in an unbiased, objective manner that is absent of a teacher’s political or religious perspective or beliefs. Ultimately, we strive to help our students become critical thinkers so that they can form their own conclusions and opinions and to refrain from telling students what to think. 

What students learn in our schools should not be a mystery. All learning is guided by state and national standards along with district learner outcomes. Course outlines and materials are readily available for parents who want to know precisely what it is that students are learning. Teachers and school administrators welcome questions and discussion when families are unclear about what their student is learning or if there are questions about curriculum resources. Families are encouraged to reach out if there are ever concerns or questions. 

Families and other caring adults are an important part of a child’s life and education. Our schools value the partnerships with families and their influence and assistance with helping their child learn and grow to be successful, valued members of our community.   

Steve Massey is the superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools.

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