SPOTSWOOD, NJ - American Education Week is celebrated every November, inviting parents, caregivers and grandparents into public education classrooms to get a glimpse inside the day to day world of students' classroom life. The practice of opening classroom doors to parents and guardians dates all the way back to the 1920s.
The idea was created by the National Education Association and the American Legion. Both were co-sponsors of the original American Education Week, which was celebrated in December of 1921. In 1922, the United States Office of Education came on board and by 1938 the PTA became a co-sponsor as well. Today, American Education Week is held the week prior to Thanksgiving every November.
Three of the four Spotswood School District schools welcomed parents this week. The Memorial Middle School held theirs on Tuesday, November 14 while the Schoenly School had their open house yesterday. Appleby Elementary School will open their doors to families today.
Unlike the two older schools which have a block of time where parents and guardians can sign in to visit their child in the subject the student is engaged in, the Schoenly School, which houses the district's prekindergarten through first graders, sends out a scheduled time for parents and guardians to stop by. All visitors must sign in and are then escorted to their child's classroom.
"It gives us a focus and prepares the kids," explained Schoenly School Principal Jennifer Asprocolas.
The scheduling also allows parents with more than one child in the school to visit both classrooms. The district spreads the open houses throughout the week as well to let parents with multiple children in different schools to get to all their kids' classes.
"Sometimes instead of parents," Asprocolas continued. "The grandparents come in. The teachers like to plan some kind of activity that includes them."
Schoenly preschoolers fashioned thankful turkeys along with their parent or caregiver. Jennifer Saldarini and Jaclyn Cassidy's first grade classes created scrapbook pages with their families while fellow first grade teacher Dawn Hyland did a read aloud and a project.
Hyland read and discussed Tomie dePaola's "The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush" with her first graders as visitors looked on. The classic children's book is a retelling of a Texas' folk tale that explains the origin of the stunningly beautiful Indian paintbrush wildflower. The students have been reading and talking about folk tales this month. After the story, the children worked with their parent or caregiver to create a color poem about an object in nature. Then, they used oil pastels to color paper pots.
Of course, not all families were able to attend the November 15 open house. However, teachers along with parents and grandparents in attendance were happy to lend a hand to students who didn't have a visitor.
American Education Week has grown in scope since 1921 with many more educational organizations joining the movement that celebrates the positives of public education. The idea was born from the fact that 25 percent of World War I draftees could not read while nine percent lacked physical fitness. This lead the National Education Association and the American Legion to form a partnership to try and gain community support for the benefits of public education.
As moms, dads, grandparents and caregivers came and went at the Schoenly School, the smiles were wide on both the faces of the adults and the children.
"In some classrooms it was standing room only," Asprocolas said.