Category Archives: Education

Barbara Bush: Passionate Model

Today we celebrate, not mourn, the life of one of the strongest women who served as First Lady.  Interesting, that her station in life propelled a personal passion forward that seldom gets the focus so needed–dyslexia.

Having the opportunity to hear her talk at an Orton Dyslexia Society conference (now the International Dyslexia Association), I continued to push students to learn how to read and to write despite the difficulties they faced as dyslexic.

One of my personal drives was to be passionate that all students can learn to read and to write even if they were dyslexic.  The work that I have done to teach dyslexics was energized when I listened to Barbara Bush.  Her style, her honestly and her passion made such an impression on me that day.

As I watched Jenna Bush-Hagar battle the tears yesterday morning, I could only empathize with her impending sense of loss, but more importantly her pride in her grandmother.  Over the past few years watching Jenna, yes I want to just call her Jenna as a friend, I see the beauty and the passion of her grandmother shining through her, too.

Sometimes we get so bombarded by the polished images of public figures, esp. in the entertainment industry, we become jaded.  Barbara Bush was real and I believe her genuineness is reflected by those in her family who follow their passions and try to model their grandmother, their mother, their mother-in-law, their aunt, and their friend. We should all be so fortunate to have that type of influence in our lives.

Thank you, Barbara Bush, for the grand woman that you are.  You live even though you are no longer in our world.  Thank you for the work you did in such a classy manner.  I know you have and will light the fire in those who knew and will learn who you are.Barbara Bush: Passionate Leader

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In reply: “Gone Missing” Letter to the Editor

In Re: Curriculum for the 21st Century: a reply to C.D. Rinck Sr.’s Letter to the Editor, March 21, 2018.

D. Rinck of Mission, KS, has a valid point. He asked, “ What happened to all those government checks and balances I was taught in high school?”

He goes on reflecting on his own education, “”They must have suffered the same fate as diagramming a sentence as I learned in English Class.”

Rinck should be concerned. Having taught for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015, I have taught both—how to diagram sentences and the US Constitution. I also taught journalism.

The Constitution provides the clear separation of powers as a means of preventing any one branch from taking control. The checks and balance system is critical to a democracy including the republican democracy of the United States.

At no point should one branch have power over any other branch. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments to the National Press Club last week, the same topic of checks and balance is referenced.

Flake said, “Defending democratic institutions ought not to be a controversial idea, and hasn’t been until very recently. But recognizing that our institutions are under threat from within, with clarity, seems to me a basic obligation of the Article I branch of government—the congress, whose power is, in theory, equal to that of the president’s…”

Jennifer Rubin, from The Washington Post, was published in the KC Star editorial, “The problem: Flake can’t win in today’s Trump GOP” also focused on checks and balance.

American textbooks include the principle of checks and balance as a primary theme to be taught in civics and government classes. The class used to be taught juniors not freshmen as it is today. (And as an aside, I question whether freshmen are developmentally prepared to discuss the theory or to fully comprehend the value of the US Constitution.)

The American checks and balance system has also included an additional watchdog—freedom of speech that includes professional journalism. I taught journalism as the social responsibility as I was taught at MU during the mid-1970s. Journalists are to report the news objectively not subjectively, unless in editorials.

Our schools must teach students how to be critical readers, good communicators, and independent thinkers. I am concerned that emphasizing technology education and student achievement testing undermines what education must be.

Language curriculum needs to include sentence diagramming again. Diagramming teaches students how words communicate. Students need to understand value of the word, the difference in denotative and connotative meanings, and how to write clear statements. Sentence diagramming teaches analysis of language.

An example of applying critical reading and understanding language’s structure as evidenced in today’s KC Star article, “Trump’s phone call to Putin raises hackles,” about the President congratulatory phone call to Putin included one biased word: stubborn. Look at the paragraph.

“Trumps comments came five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other “malicious cyber-attacks.’ It widened what has become a familiar gulf between the Trump administration’s tougher actions and words toward Russia and Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Putin.”

Let the facts speak without adding the opinion.

Of course, our school’s curriculum and the emphasis placed on education must be a priority for our society, too. Our students will be left behind if the curriculum does not teach the skills to be critical readers, analytical thinkers, and good communicators.

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Filed under Education, History & Government, journalism

no. No. NO! Do NOT arm teachers.

I am a retired teacher.  I retired after teaching in alternative educational program for 20 years.  The President’s statement that we need to arm our teachers, much less to provide them a monetary bonus for carrying a gun into the classroom outrages me.

Teachers work to develop positive relationships with students.

How does a gun demonstrate trust?

Teachers already serve as surrogate parents (known by the legal phrase in loco parentis) while our children–students–are present on school grounds.

How does a gun teach students healthy relationships?

Teachers are coaches for our young people struggling to manage the game of life.

How does a gun teach life skills?

Teachers spend hours preparing lesson plans trying to teach basic knowledge in as many ways possible to meet the individual needs of the students.

How does a gun meet a student’s individual needs?

Teachers are paid only a nominal salary to fulfill all the educational, emotional, social, and basic needs for this country’s future.

How does paying a bonus to carry a gun improve the educational system?

The endless list of questions can continue, but there is absolutely no answer that makes any sense that our teachers should be armed.  Would this lead to colleges of education requiring certification in marksmanship?

The final suggestion that teachers be given a bonus for carrying a gun just appalls me.  We cannot pay our teachers a reasonable salary for all we expect them to do already, why would paying a bonus to carry a gun be appropriate?

Paying bonuses to workers who demonstrate exceptional salesmanship or innovative business skills has long been a practice in the corporate world.  Never, never has such a practice been part of the educational paradigm.

Gifted teachers focus on developing relationships with the students.

Gifted teachers focus on finding ways to teach to the individual needs of the students whether educational, emotional, social, or technical.

Gifted teachers operate out of a sense of unconditional love for the individual students who grace their classroom.

Why would anyone think it is beneficial to arm teachers in the classroom when their full focus is on doing whatever it takes to protect those kids in that critical moment that an armed intruder is storming through the school?  Stopping to pick up a gun and turn away from the kids may destroy the very lives they are working so hard to prepare for productive adult lives of our country’s future.

Do not insult the integrity of the teaching profession by rewarding them to carry a gun into the classroom.   No.  No.  No!  No guns in the classroom.  And absolutely no bonus to encourage these professionals to carry a gun.

Reward teachers by respecting the profession and paying them appropriately for being in loco parentis in those classrooms.

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Social media are today’s glass houses

The familiar saying, “He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” keeps bubbling up in my head.  This morning I suddenly realized that today’s social media is the equivalent of the glass house in this saying.

According to the website, https://www.phrases.org.uk/, which I accessed this morning,  “PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN’T THROW STONES – “Those who are vulnerable should not attack others. The proverb has been traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ .”   . . . [and] Benjamin Franklin also referenced this saying with a slight adjustment,  “‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors’, if your own windows are glass.'”

Today we live in a transparent world when we step onto the world wide web through any of the social media available to us.  The social media is our glass house and what we post has the potential to damage another as easily as a stone destroys glass.

When I taught high school students journalism, I used to ask students would they want their grandmother to read what they wanted to print (yes print medium rather than broadcast medium was the standard in the 1970s and 1980s) if that was said about them. It seemed such an easy way to have them self-edit their work before publishing anything.

Today, that no longer serves as a good test as we are so removed from the social stigma’s of the ’70s and ’80s when grandparents were part of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.  Now the grandparent has evolved to those in the Baby Boomer generation who lived through the 1960s and 1970s when social standards began shifting–or tumbling.

Today we need to teach our young people, and maybe reteach even the younger Baby Boomers, that what they post on social media is forever printed in one manner or another.  The social media makes spreading gossip or menacing words so easy and once posted is there forever.

True, the social media has the positive value when spreading good news or complimentary words, but sadly our society seems not to share them as readily as they do the negative–another concept that needs direct teaching.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people from the first click of the electronic devices that what they say has tremendous power to damage someone else’s life.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people the power of the social media to do good, also.

Once that final click to post is made, there is no way to take away the effect of the words posted.

Let’s use the social tools we have available to keep the glass houses in tact rather than destroy with social media stones.

 

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Prayer for our students

I cannot imagine leaving the latest school shooting out of Sunday’s service.  We may live have a nation away from Florida, but our schools are being shaken repeatedly by shootings.  The country needs to pray for healing and for answers about how to stop the violence.

When the UM News department posted the comments from Florida’s Bishop Carter, I could not ignore it and felt that it provides us the tool we need.  Please read and join in prayer:

The statement issued by Florida Area Resident Bishop Ken Carter, who is also the incoming president of the Council of Bishops, reads as follows:
On this Ash Wednesday, our services announced the biblical imperative to “repent and believe the gospel.”  In light of today’s shootings, we repent from our participation in a culture of death, we acknowledge the harm we do to others, and we claim the power of the cross that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation.  We also grieve with the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida, in the deaths of seventeen persons and the wounding of many others on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A number of surrounding United Methodist Churches have students at this school, and our connection will support their healing ministry in the days ahead.

 

Using these words, let us pray together:

 

Dear God,

We accept the role of being your servants,

But sometimes we cannot be all that we want to be.

We hear the news and cry out for answers,

And we forget to turn it over to you.

We feel anger boil up within us and we scream,

As we try to renew our faith during Lent.

Let us begin with Bishop Carter’s words:

“In light of this week’s shootings, we repent

from our participation in a culture of death,

we acknowledge the harm we do to others,

and we claim the power of the cross

that breaks the cycle of violence and retaliation.

We also grieve with the communities

of Parkland and Coral Springs, Florida,

in the deaths of seventeen persons

and the wounding of many others. . .”

Guide us in our prayer life

To share our pain and to hear your words.

Guide us in our scripture reading

To find wisdom and encouragement.

Guide us in our fellowship

To love one another,

To make disciples of others,

And To transform this hurting world

So all my know grace and love

Now and forever through your son, Jesus Christ.–Amen

 

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Enough is Enough: School shootings

I just sent off a letter to the editor at the KC Star.  Sometimes I just have enough.  Even though I already posted once this morning, I turned to the electronic of the KC Star and could not stop thinking about what has happened in Florida.  I can’t let this slide.  I can’t say enough about how change is needed.  Therefore, here is one of my entries I am calling Enough is Enough.  Please share if you agree.

 

Seeing Florida mom Lori Alhadeff’s outrage pains me and justifiably so.  The raw emotion should trigger the entire country’s sense of enough is enough. She rightfully screamed into the camera and asked that our country fix a problem that cannot be ignored another day, another week, another month.   

As a retired teacher, I hear the news and cringe.  I know the faces of the students, and I know them personally.  I may have taught in the Midwest, but that does not lessen the outrage I feel as the long litany of school shootings continues.
Young people carrying guns in backpacks is simply unacceptable.  Young people in school must focus on preparing for the adult world being educated how to learn, how to question, how to create, how to dream.  Schools must be filled with teachers and administrators focused on teaching the individual to the best of that student’s ability.
Our society is out of time.
Stop reacting and start shifting the paradigm now.
Education has become a numbers game:  educating all students as a mass, not as indviduals.
Education must value the students each as an individual at all cost.  And yes, it will cost; but we must not allow the cost to slam the door shut on the country’s future.
Enough is enough!

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Filed under Education, Enough is enough . . ., Paradigm Shifts

Reality through R-2’s class of ’72

Admittedly graduates of 1972 are facing a new reality–we are reaching traditional retirement age.  Last week my hometown class faced the reality with the death of our classmate Steve.  The event might not seem noteworthy, but only one other classmate Debby has died and that was due to a train wreck within the first year after graduation.

Flash ahead to the events of another tragic school shooting this week.  How do these become connected?  For my classmates education was valued.  We were taught that school came first.  We were pushed to focus on academics even before sports–I know, that may shock many today.

My parents tasted college, but never finished a degree plan.  We lived in rural American when family farms were the norm in the Midwest.  They instilled the value of education for my brother and myself so we did complete college, even achieving our masters later in our adult lives.  We were blessed to have our parents and live in a rural community.

Reviewing the circumstances of the 1972 Class from Montgomery County R-II, I cannot escape making observations that may be overlooked in our current school environments, especially after this week’s horrific Florida school shooting:

  1. Numbers.  The size of our schools continues to grow reaching the size of a city.  How in the world can students be individuals if they are forced to bump shoulders, often literally, in the halls and classrooms of a building?
  2. Testing.  Another concern is that success in school is based on numbers, not on student individual growth.  The individual is lost in the demand that testing prove achievement. Some testing is necessary, but just as a marker not a permanent diagnosis.
  3. Teachers.  Value teachers!  What other profession places educational demands at the cost of the individual without fair and equitable salary and benefits.  The profession cannot maintain the gifted teachers who are called–yes called–to step into the classroom alone with 20-30 kids who no longer value education and/or have no stable home environment to support them as they step into the classroom.
  4. Students.  Yes, there are those who do value education, are respectful, and have a supportive system, but sadly they are being outnumbered by the students on the opposite side of the spectrum who need schools to be a safe, supportive, nurturing environment that can teach them how to dream, set a path to reach that dream, and to work successfully towards that dream once they are fed, clothed, and housed safely.

The classes of ’72 is waning and the generations now entering into the profession of education may not have any of the critical skills or understanding of how to teach the masses who are now generations removed from the Greatest Generation and its values.

Do I have recommendations?  Certainly,

  1. Reduce the size of schools.  Create a learning environment that is safe, family-like, and supportive.  I realize the cost is beyond consideration, but why not be inventive and establish settings in some of the places that are unused during the school week.  Think about empty store fronts, empty Sunday school classrooms, office buildings.  Use the spaces effectively and reduce the physical size of the schools were kids are crammed into one place.
  2. Establish reasonable testing expectations.  Numbers are NOT the only way to measure student growth.  You cannot boil education down to one standardized set of scores.  No child should be left behind, but education is not about a set of numbers, it is about growth and nourishing our young people to be the best they can be.
  3. Value teachers.  Provide a reasonable financial package, including appropriate benefits for teachers that attracts them into the profession rather than turn them away.  Teachers are life long learners, but the salaries do not support continued education even while requiring more formal education.  Masters degrees are expected within five years of starting one’s career.  Sadly the income cannot sustain a teacher to live at a comfortable standard and pay for the coursework demanded of the profession.  There is very little incentive to invest in teaching as a lifelong profession, especially if wanting to raise a family, too.
  4. Students are important.  Every teacher must be taught the neurology of learning and the development markers that all students inevitably must face and manage.  Education is malleable, not concrete.  No one student follows a prescribed formula. Each student is different and all teachers must be taught to know that and even to recognize that reality.  Students must be valued.  Students must not be just a number.

Our society must accept the reality that we are far removed from the Greatest Generation.  The truth is the potential for each generation to be the greatest is always present.  The horror is that we are not acknowledging the potential in our individual students by the devaluing of the human factors in education.

Our culture places the dollar before education.  Education is how we make American great again.  When we prioritize the profession, the teachers, and especially the students then we will make American great again.  This week’s violence must not be forgotten.  Let’s use it as a cry for the change at the very foundation of our society–our education of the future.  This is the way to stop the violence in the schools–shift the value, even the paradigm, of education in our schools today.

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