By Tony Palazzolo
From a remarkably early age it was apparent that my son had well developed verbal skills. In fact, at his one-year check-up upon seeing the mammoth size needle they were using to draw blood, he uttered a single word, the slang, and less acceptable word for excrement. The boy has never been shy about using his vocabulary.
This was great — until he started going to school.
You see, we are St Louis City residents, where the public school system is seriously troubled and unsafe. High quality charter school options were slim as they were still getting off the ground. We seriously, albeit briefly, considered selling our wonderful city home and moving into a better school district. Thankfully, we eventually decided to stay in our quiet and charming neighborhood and started to consider private school options.
We found a Catholic school that seemed like it might be a good fit for our son. I appreciated the discipline and the structured, demanding learning environment. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite fit in. Remember, our boy is a talker! He needs to express himself and ultimately, his teacher made the decision to move his desk in the corner for the remainder of the school year. Of course, this was really embarrassing for him and didn’t seem to resolve the situation because he was still given poor conduct marks every single week.
We (as in my wife) decided that we needed to change schools. After months of research and school visits, we settled on a school that follows the Reggio Emilia approach to instruction. This approach doesn’t try to constrain the child’s energy, but instead harnesses it. The children are encouraged to interact with each other. The style works very well with boys (apparently boys can’t sit still for more than 37 seconds).
In his first school he felt like he was living in a restricted world, and from his point of view, it felt like a dungeon. In the Reggio Emilia school he feels like a king. It has been a wonderful educational experience. Once we were able to place him in a school that works well with his natural strengths, learning style and personality, his confidence grew and he blossomed academically and socially. His confidence level is high and he is thriving.
All children, no matter where they live or whether their parents are wealthy, middle-class or low-income, should have access to the school environment that supports and feeds their individual learning styles. No one style of school or approach to instruction can possibly answer every child’s educational needs.
THIS is the beauty of educational choice.
Please consider supporting the great work that CEAM is providing to parents across the state. Missouri’s children are depending on the adults’ ability to reimagine how we educate our youth.
I’m a publicly educated native St. Louisan and I am a strong believer in parental choice. I received my Operations Management Degree from Missouri State University. I am the father of an athletic, spunky and challenging 10-year-old boy. I’ve been married for 11 years (if you’re doing the math, he was planned) and with the same woman (my wife) for nearly 20 years. She still doesn’t think I’m funny.
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