Why You Should Vote for Schools

Schools educate everbody; everybody benefits. Educating kids well keeps them off the street, out of trouble. That trouble could be breaking into your house, defacing your property, or worse. Kids who get a good education grow up to get jobs, pay taxes and contribute to the community. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Education is a community endeavor, not just the responsibility of parents.

Our schools are not terrible. We try to give all students the same opportunities. When you take differences in education systems into consideration, our schools don’t look so bad when compared with schools in other countries. We don’t ‘track’ students. Our test results include all students, not just those who are going to college.

Schools are not capitalistic ventures. Maybe the US isn’t ready for a socialized system for medicine, but we’ve had a socialized school system for two hundred years. Our state schools, in spite of many promises over the years to fix the system, are still funded by property taxes. Changes in the economy impact schools just as they do every individual.

Schools need money. Withholding money from schools will not fix the problems. If you are unhappy with the way schools are being run, look at who’s running them. Don’t punish the kids.

Whenever a levy doesn’t pass, you can almost be guaranteed that some enthusiastic and energetic new teachers have lost their jobs. The ones who stay are those who’ve been there longest. Veteran teachers are not all burned out, but rookie teachers, in spite of their inexperience, have a lot to offer. They bring new ideas and enthusiasm to our schools.

Size does matter. When teachers are let go, class sizes increase. If you believe that class size doesn’t matter, I invite you to spend a day in a public classroom of thirty-six students, the maximum allowed in my district. More

Antiques

I am thinking of giving up some things I normally eat. If I cut out all the unnecessary stuff, I will be left with a daily core diet that I can live with: oatmeal, a package of M&M peanut candies, a box of wheat thins and half a bottle of wine. Eating just these essentials should save me about a thousand calories a day.

It’s not that I need to lose weight. I just want to gradually fade away to nothing instead of getting old and having jowls and wonky knees.

Nobody wants to get old, but since we have no choice, we might as well play along when it becomes obvious that it’s happening. Tell people, “I wouldn’t want to be twenty-five again.” Explain that you wouldn’t trade the accumulated wisdom of the last thirty years for tight abs and a digestive tract that can handle anything.

Really, I would give anything for a pair of knees that aren’t scheduled for surgery.

Up until about two years ago, I would have said that I felt no different than I did at thirty. Well, thirty-five, perhaps. My knees clicked a bit going up stairs, but took me anywhere I wanted to go without complaint.

Now they complain. They are like the car we had when we first got married. We called it Baby, which pretty much describes how we had to treat it. If we didn’t speak to it in lilting tones, if we accidentally swore at it, we could plan on taking the bus.

My knees demand respect. They hint at a walker, or at least a cane.

I am not yet at the point where I start telling my sons what hymns I want sung at my funeral, but the realization that my joints are wearing out has given me a new perspective on life. I used to chafe at the way old people drive. Why are they so slow? Why aren’t they in a hurry? Don’t they know that time is running out?   More

Reality 101

The hardest part of education is not getting new information in, but getting old (incorrect) information out. Once an idea makes its way into a person’s reality, it will be defended against all ideas that contradict it.

Teaching is all about opening minds. Once minds are open, there is no limit to what people can learn.

But dissuading people out of their comfortable beliefs is hard. Beliefs become habits, and whether they make sense or not, they require no thought — they become the path of least resistance.

Our culture does not embrace new ideas. Culture only appears to be all about What’s New — new stuff to buy, listen to, try, wear, eat, drink… But what appears new to us is really only novelty, a variation on what we already have accepted.

The minds of kindergartners are already full of a reality they ‘know’ to be true. With each year of school, that reality becomes more and more firmly entrenched, unless successfully challenged.

This is what makes teaching teenagers so frustrating. They are all sophomores – wise fools. They have enough knowledge to think that they know everything, and nothing we tell them makes a dent in that reality.

I was no different. My parents got much smarter as I got older. More

Perfect

I am a perfectionist. It’s not that everything I do is perfect. Far from it. I just mean that perfection is my affliction. As Merlin Mann says, “What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict.” I am addicted to organization.

Being organized is a good thing. Finding a better way to do things is the essence of productivity. For a teacher, staying organized is a matter of survival. Procedures and methods that don’t work and take up too much time undermine our ability to do our jobs. I am a problem solver, always learning better ways to do my job.

I have learned, too, that the people who run schools, write curriculum, and make decisions about what teachers ought to do are less concerned about productivity and learning than they are about money and lawsuits. Why else would they produce three-page forms for us to fill out when one student calls another student “stupid”? More

Don’t Bore Me; I’m Special

If there are any kids out there who love school, they are not speaking up.

For me, this is a reality of teaching, that I am the enemy, the mean person who is making kids learn things that are ‘boring.’

I sympathize. I don’t want to do boring things, either. But isn’t this a reality of adult life, that we all have to do laundry, pay bills, take out the garbage? Life is not always entertaining.

Do I expect a sixteen-year-old to accept this without complaint? Of course not.

Do I expect to be blamed for ‘boring’? Maybe. Sometimes. But mostly I blame the curriculum.

Put aside the curriculum for a moment. Like most teachers, I make choices about what I’m asked to teach. I try to avoid boring my students. Bored students = trouble.

I teach juniors, sixteen- and seventeen-year olds who have drivers licenses and cell phones. They like to shop, to socialize, to party. They don’t willingly open a book. Books are boring. More

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