Being a Student Again

By Will, a current parent

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I often envy our kids for the knowledge and wisdom available to them. They would be quick to point out that I am not referring to their parents’ knowledge and wisdom. I am talking about the teachers at The Downtown School. I joined the inaugural Downtown School parent book club the other day. Yes…one more inaugural, founding, pioneering experience.

But that is what makes the school unique. Like our kids, we can try things and explore different approaches, make the old things new and interesting.

If you are like us, our conversations with our freshman son are like interpreting emojis – often monosyllabic, consistently leaving us feeling like we are learning a new English dialect and virtually always scratching our heads. It was in this spirit I was happy to hear there would be a parent book club and we would be reading and discussing the books our kids were reading.

I was interested in this--both because it would give us a way to engage the thoughts under our son’s hair, and also because I am envious.  Our kids are getting to learn interesting subjects with amazing teachers -- As adults we rarely get to be students and just enjoy the beauty of learning for its own sake. The book club met both of my goals.

For the ground-breaking book club, we were “assigned” Small Country , by Gaël Faye. It tells the story of a boy on the edge of becoming a teenager as his country, Burundi, careens into civil war. English teacher Brian Crawford facilitated the conversation with a handful of us parents. And for a couple brief hours it felt like being a student again. The conversation flowed easily from subjects like the nuances of literature and language, cultural healing after the Rwandan genocide, to engaging young people in complicated topics. It offered not only an insight into The Downtown School pedagogy, but also offered an opening to a new way of engaging our son in conversation.

As with any startup, some things will stick, and others will get cast aside. My hope is that the book club becomes an opening that offers us parents an opportunity to learn from the knowledge and wisdom of our kids’ teachers. And maybe, just maybe, our kids will come to the awareness that we, their parents, have ideas about topics beyond where they left their shoes.