Friday, September 13, 2013 was the final day of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s five-day back-to-school bus tour with the theme “Strong Start, Bright Future.” He visited high schools and elementary schools; held town hall meetings; spoke to students in assemblies, in classrooms, and on school buses. I was particularly interested in some of the comments the Secretary and school and college administrators who attended some of the events made during these visits.
Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, said that the university’s objective was to meet each student where they stand. He was referring to financial assistance for students who needed it. He followed up with, “We have a mantra here—we will be judged not by whom we exclude, but by whom we include.” At a town hall meeting in Santa Fe, Secretary Duncan said that though some folks come to Santa Fe to experience the culture and the architecture, “we believe you’re here to see our most precious resource: our children.”
Hearing these words of support made me recall something that I had heard just a week ago in the locker room where I swim. Some teachers were talking about the children returning to school. A first-grade teacher said that first-graders are skipping when they come into the school. I loved the image and thought about what makes one skip. I think it’s unmitigated joy and lack of fear about what awaits you.
When students find themselves on our college and university campuses, they could literally, and, most likely figuratively, skip to class if we met them where they stand, as President Crow said, and if we treated them as if they were our most precious resource, according to Secretary Duncan. As we move forward with the academic year, something that might help during those pessimistic valleys when we wonder if our efforts are worth it is to think about students skipping across campus or into classrooms because they know that they are getting a “strong start for their bright future.”