My Favorite Radical Heads to Kindergarten!

Over the past five years, Tempered Radical author Bill Ferriter has shared a thousand stories about his daughter.  Whether inviting readers to celebrate her adoption, sharing his anger about comics who mock adoptive parents, or simply spending a few minutes singing with her, Bill has always used Reece for inspiration.  In this post, Bill shares his hopes and fears as Reece heads to Kindergarten.

Long-time members of Radical Nation probably remember the day that my wife and I welcomed Reece — my beautiful, funny, smart adopted daughter — into our lives.

Swaddled, pooping, and wrestling with a pacifier three times the size of her head, she won my heart in an instant:


That same girl has grown up, y’all — and on Tuesday, she heads to Kindergarten whether I like it or not:




I have to admit, I’m a nervous wreck.

I’m full of questions about what she will learn and who she will become and whether or not traditional classrooms in traditional schools are going to prepare her for tomorrow’s world.  I’m full of worries that her teachers may not understand that her vibrancy and energy and spirit are EXACTLY who I want her to be given that girls who are vibrant, energetic and full of spirit grow up to be strong, confident women.  And I’m full of fear that I might be a failure as a parent, forgetting that my contributions to Reece’s learning are as essential to her success as anything that schools will do on her behalf.

But I’m full of hopes, too.  I hope that she’ll never see the difference between learning and schooling.

So much of what makes Reece special is that she LOVES learning new things and she’s constantly making discoveries — about both herself and the world around her — that she’s ready to share with anyone who will listen.  Whether she’s telling Grandma about the ways that animals use camouflage to keep themselves safe or teaching Gramps the best way to snap your fingers, she’s proud of what she knows and she’s ready to learn more no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Like most kindergartners, learning is still a celebration instead of a chore for Reece — and I hope that her teachers and schools will work to keep it that way.

And I hope that she’ll keep asking amazing questions.  Just yesterday, she asked:

  • Can planets fall out of the sky?
  • Is the sun like the earth’s mother?
  • Does your spirit leave your body after you die?
  • What’s higher – Heaven or space?
  •  Why do some fish glow?
  • How do satellites work?
  • How do television shows get to our house?

Questions are the starting point of any worthwhile discovery.  More importantly, questions are the starting point of a meaningful life.  The simple truth is that wondering about the world is a thousand times more fun than waiting to take directions.  In a world where students and schools are judged by nothing more than answers, I hope Reece will find teachers who still believe in the beauty of good questions.

Finally, I hope she’ll be more than “college and career ready” by the time her journey through “the system” is done.

In fact, the first time a teacher and/or school tells me that they are committed to ensuring that their kids are “college and career ready,” I’m likely to go straight Vesuvian on ’em.  Sure, I want Reece to develop a set of skills that will help her to find a financially rewarding career — someone has to pay my nursing home fees after all — but there is SO much more to life than being prepared for college and a career.

To be honest, I want Reece to be COMMUNITY ready on the day that she graduates.  I want her to recognize that she isn’t living in an isolated little bubble of ME, but instead, we live together in a world full of WE.  I want her to make the world a better place for everyone who lives in it and to develop the skills and abilities necessary to tackle the challenges that threaten our environment and the peace and safety the people that we share our planet with.

I want her to recognize that she has power — that she CAN drive positive change with her choices and her actions — and I hope she crosses paths with teachers who constantly remind her that she is responsible for so much more than getting to college and preparing for a career.

Most importantly, I hope that Reece’s teachers and Reece’s principals and Reece’s schools and Reece’s systems remember that she’s not just another kid sitting in just another classroom waiting for the school year to end.

She’s MY kid, and she’s fixin’ to take the world by storm.



 Related Radical Reads:

Welcoming the Newest Radical

This is Who I Am

Maureen Langan and CBS Should Be Ashamed


Related categories:
  • marsharatzel

    My 2 cents

    I totally get your concerns…having raised 3 of my own children who were a lot like Reece.  Here’s what my experience would say.

    There will be some years, her curiosity and questions will be cherished and encouraged…she’ll love school those years. These will be the easiest years…ones you can just kick back and thoroughly enjoy.

    There will be other years, these will be liabilities and the lessons she’ll learn won’t be the same, but they will be invaluable because those are about celebrating who you are in the face of a person in authority who doesn’t value what makes you special.  It will be your big chance, as her Pops, to wrestle with the unfairness of the situation and not let it jade her (or you who will probably be tempted to punch anyone who doesn’t appreciate her specialness).  These are really important years (the bad ones) because it will be where you can help her learn to cope with not being a good situation and still be who she is!

    There will be other years where she’ll be bored out of her mind.   That will be your big chance to show her other ways to stoke her fires….taking her to plays, musuems, other kinds of classes and learning experiences (and I know you know all this).  It’s another chance to show her that is still fantastic even when school is boring and making sure she stays a learner.  I did this for my oldest daughter when she was a freshman and dying a little death every moment she spent in her freshman science class.  I sent her off to work on a research project in Baja California (Mexico) to experience how science is really done….catching sea turtles, documenting what the cotnents of their stomach revealed about migratory routes, and learning how to drive a Zodiac.  School was torture, but I didn’t want her to lose her love of science.

    And then all the years where it’s a mix.  I always tried to remember….as the parent, it was my job to make sure they were educated.  School is only one spot….I think they learned as much from Scouting, church and the sports they played.  Teachers sort of come and go….but my responsibility was lifelong.  I thank God for all the brilliant, inspiring teachers my children had over the years and how positively they impacted their lives.  

    But I really believe that it was the family that cultivated their learning passions, their desire to know more, to excel and to perservere.  It was our family standard and our responsibility to support each other as they struggled to grow up and become COMMUNITY ready.  Reece will always be AOK because she has you and her wife….and your family is what has cultivated that spirit and it is also what will keep her sustained/alive until she becomes of age.

    • billferriter

      Marsha wrote:

      Marsha wrote:


      Teachers sort of come and go….but my responsibility was lifelong.  I thank God for all the brilliant, inspiring teachers my children had over the years and how positively they impacted their lives.  

      But I really believe that it was the family that cultivated their learning passions, their desire to know more, to excel and to perservere.



      This is complete brilliance, Pal.  Thanks for reminding me that in the end, Reece’s education really does depend more on me and my consistent support than it does the handful of teachers who will spend short periods of time with her.  

      I needed that challenge — and that nudge to remember that my role matters most. 

      Rock on, 


  • George Couros

    Not too much to say other

    Not too much to say other than you must be one proud dad 🙂  

  • JonHanbury

    everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten


    as a former kindergarten teacher turned math coach, i am hopeful that reese will have a successful introduction to the world of school.  it’s been my experience that most of the early childhood teachers embrace the enthusiasm and excitement of the young child…..that’s why they choose the “babies”!  unfortunately, the the interference of the government with the academic mandates for our children have changed much of the focus in kindergarten from play to academics!  but from what i hear, reese won’t stuggle with the learning.

    having raised two boys of my own, i agree with marsha.  i was fortunate that our older boy was in high school when our beloved SOLs were introduced in the great state of virginia.  his education never suffered.  it wasn’t the same with our younger boy.  in the six years he was in elementary school he had only 2 teacher who earned high marks from me.  the other 4 years were dreadful.  i became his teacher as well as his mother at times.  his high school career was not much better.  the teachers blamed the students for the poor averages for their classes; they had taught the subject so therefore they believed that the students should have learned it.  a much different experience than what we had lived with our older son.  but my son earned a spot in the engineering school at UVA and has been gainfully employed in northern virginia since september 2010.

    the one bit of advice i’d like to share — look at the other students in her class and at her grade level.  as a believer in vygotsky, learning is a social event.  children learn much from their peers.  so they are as much of an influence for your daughter as her teachers.

    the journey begins on tuesday………what an exciting day for your family.  as i’ve told many a parent, more than academics goes to school.  every child has gifts; sometimes it’s up to the parents to point them out.  

    be sure to keep us posted.   

    • billferriter

      Jon wrote:

      Jon wrote:

      the one bit of advice i’d like to share — look at the other students in her class and at her grade level.  as a believer in vygotsky, learning is a social event.  children learn much from their peers.  so they are as much of an influence for your daughter as her teachers.


      I’m totally with you here, Jon — and something that I’m constantly encouraging Reece to do is to reach out to the other kids in her class.  Heck, at meet the teacher day on Friday, I had her running around the room asking new friends what their favorite foods and Disney Princesses and movies were.  She was the only kid in the room brave enough to actually speak to others — and by the end of thirty minutes, she’d spoken to at least half the kids in the room.  

      When we were driving home, I told her I was proud of her for talking to new people.  Her response:  “I’m a talk so much kind of person, Daddy.”  

      And I love that about her.



  • wrkn4jstish

    Sending our dear ones off to school…

    It frightens me so much when children I love start to public school. Likely as not, the “talk so much” kind of a girl is goiing to have a horrible K-1 experience. The first thing I notice about kindergarteners at the school in which I teach  (which is by the way, a “progressive”, “child centered” school) is that the students are forced into NOT talking. Not talking at their seats, not talking in the halls, putting their “finger on their lips and hands on their hips” or making “ducktails and bubbles” – cheeks puffed out and their hands behind their backs kike a little ducks tail. On the surface these restrictive behaviours seem necessary to the the teachers who are trying to get them from one place to another. But the reality at least in my observations of many students in many schools, is that those little people who delight us outside of school with their words and thoughts and actions are transformed into students who “can’t follow directions” or are “unable to control their bodies” or “have short attention spans”. As if these qualities were not normal and desirable. I keep teaching, hoping that somehow I can make a difference. But it gets more and more difficult as I watch children transformed by the system into problem behaviors instead of delightful and curious social beings. I am guilty, too, but the older I get the more I realize the ways in which our system of education in this country abuses and destroys the very qualities we claim to “love”.