Joe Robertson: Staying grounded amid the education wars

08/10/2014 6:07 PM

08/10/2014 6:07 PM

The swell of the bus’s engine, pushing up the short hill to my 11-year-old son’s stop, took me by surprise one last time.

This is where today’s first-day-of-school sermon begins: At that moment last May, the last day of the past school year, watching my youngest son turn to meet his bus.

I gasped. I started to call out his name, but he skipped away so quickly, leaving me and our dog as he crossed the street.

The open bus doors swallowed him, and my heart exploded.

Today the new school year is on. There is plenty to worry about. Mountains of politics to argue.

The weeks ahead will be blazing with debate over Common Core, teacher tenure, state test scores, the future of Southwest high school, the shifting pressure toward digital classrooms.

In every direction, entanglements wait. Clashes over ideology.

We don’t really know what we miss, what moments pass unseen, while we chase these adult battles.

I’m glad I was out there most every morning at that bus stop through my two boys’ elementary years.

They accepted me, generally on the pretense that I was taking the dog for a morning walk.

Sometimes I held an umbrella over their heads. Winter always came biting and there seemed to be nothing I could do to get them to wear proper coats.

I loved it out there because this was where they’d slip into conversations about their school days, their friends, their lives outside of my view.

It was so unlike those inquiries I tried at the end of the day:

Me: What did you do in school today?

Boy: (shoulder shrug) Stuff.

This year my youngest will join his older brother in the car ride to the middle school, which has its own charm, but of a different — rushed — flavor.

I’m glad I took those morning walks to the bus stop, even if it delayed my daily entry into the newsroom and the educational wars.

I’m glad, as the final days approached last May, that I embarrassed my youngest with a few maudlin lamentations that I was going to miss these walks.

Because on the actual last day we got lost in his tale of his final group presentation in class the day before.

He was recounting the TV script they’d created and performed, enlivening a bit of American Revolution history — laughing at the class reactions to their “commercial” interruptions.

When the bus was suddenly there.

No chance for that benediction I had imagined. Just me and the dog watching as the boy, and the moment, danced away.

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to


Join the Discussion

The Kansas City Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service