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Let them teach

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Noted in passing, the headline read: School board OK's early dismissals each Wednesday. Wow a shortened day for all the McCook public school kids every week.

I'll bet the kids will like that! The teachers probably would like it, too, except they will be kept in the penalty box for the extra two hours each week. I'm also sure that this taxpayer is not convinced that the truncated school day each week is a good idea, either.

The "new" program was further explained by the School Superintendent.

"I've given them a lot of work," Norgaard admitted about teachers using the Professional Learning Communities mode of teaching, where teachers are in communication with each other about student performance. Teachers won't just be grading papers, he reiterated."

The board, in typical hobbit fashion, evidently stepped right up, said "aye," and signed the blank check.

Yes, sir, increase the paperwork, reams and reams of it, the answer to everything in ever expanding bureaucratic organizations. It is a good thing, because next will come a cry for more administrators to handle the new blizzard of paper -- the circle has no end.

To be qualified to be an administrator one has to have first been a teacher and administrators, of course receive more salary than mere teachers who have daily contact with students in the classrooms. Teachers that don't teach are kind of like drones in a colony of bees, a few are necessary maybe but expensive to keep.

I think that we should blame it on President George W. Bush and his "No Child Left Behind" initiative. The goal was to improve the performance in educating the youth of our nation. In exchange for a shower of Federal money filtering down, to even local schools, standards were set. Schools had to conduct annual standardized testing to prove that the students were "gittin' it."

If the school didn't meet the standards the money was supposed to be cut off. Oh the howls of indignation that followed! Teachers had to "teach the test" and a hundred other excuses were brought forth in protest. Sadly the money continues standards met or not and still public school educational performance nationwide continues to decline.

Obviously I came from another era, one where students went to school to learn and teachers spent considerably less time on needless paperwork. Kids that attended country schools, and I'm proud and fortunate that was my experience, had to pass a standardized 8th grade exam before being allowed to matriculate at the local high school.

Did the country school teachers teach the test? Sure they probably did but along the way we students learned math, how to read and write English, geography, history, music, and even civics. We understood how our local, state and federal governments were structured and how they were supposed to function. What am I missing? Oh, yes, we recited the pledge of allegiance to our country's flag every morning and weren't afraid to allow God into our school lives.

Our country school teachers were also the janitors and did everything else to keep the building warm and comfortable. They also oversaw the lunchroom and supervised playground activities. They weren't specialists as they taught students in all the grade levels yet had time for each of us. They also stayed, unsupervised, after the students were dismissed to grade papers and prepare lesson plans.

The local school boards paid attention; many of them had children in that school, and were unhampered in making informed decisions for the good of the students. They were not burdened with politically correct feel-good dictates foisted on them by state and federal bureaucrats. It was education for "their" kids that was important; education quality that was in part measured by how well the graduating 8th graders did on their standardized exams. Unions were non-players.

Modern school boards now have little power. They have to work within the dictates of many layers of overlying bureaucracy, plus a strong teacher's union and therefore in actuality have very little say in how well the school performs.

In my opinion, the kids who came up in country schools were academically well-prepared to take on the challenge of high school. It seemed the portion of country kids in the top 10 of the graduating classes was disproportionately higher than the students that came from other venues. In my own case I was well prepared directly out of high school to meet the demanding academic standards of the Air Force Academy.

This is not a screed against teachers in any way. The ones that I personally know are good Christian people that obviously care for their students.

Special ones like Pam Wolford are superb. I can imagine that it must be a frustration for them to be taken from the classroom for feel good paperwork generating exercises that are in vogue for education today.

Let them teach!

Incidentally, were I a public school teacher, I would refuse to pay any union dues! This is a right-to-work state and dues are voluntary! Let them teach.

This area is blessed to have our local McCook College. I do wonder why more local graduating high school seniors from this area are reluctant to enroll here, close to home.

Yes, I understand the yearning of youth to flee the nest and go farther away to a "big" school. Yet, all too often I hear the comment that credits don't transfer and am aware that in the recent past a great effort was made to correct that problem. I also wonder why more of the good athletes from all over Southwestern Nebraska aren't recruited for this college's athletic teams.

It appears that few of the local athletes are included on our college teams, so evidently all too many of the good ones go elsewhere. More local kids, high school stars from their home towns, would only attract their loyal fans. Everybody wins.

That is how I saw it.

__Dick Trail


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Ahh, now Mr. Trailer is an education expert.

-- Posted by goarmy67 on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 10:13 PM

I agree, george1st. Old guys like Dick (and myself) grew up in the days when student and teacher alike were expected to put in full days throughout the school year. And just look at the we we turned out! We still put in full days, what suckers!

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Tue, Feb 21, 2012, at 11:07 PM

I most often disagree with Mr. Trail, and no where in his words did he say he was an education expert, but this time I couldn't agree more. Having young children myself who are in school I see and talk with teachers frequently and sometimes our conversations go away from the child at hand. I have had discussions regarding how many are frustrated with all the paperwork and standards they must meet and how this takes time away from what they got into their profession to do.

This all is not coming from the superintendent. Many of those standards come from the politicians that you and I vote for every 2 to 4 years. In order for this cycle to stop, one must vote for the best person and communicate with that person that things are not great in the education community. Many teachers have become so frustrated that they are either retiring early or changing careers altogether. And I would bet that if you talked to any of them, one reason they would cite is all of the paperwork, test, requirements from the federal government that don't and haven't been working.

I have to agree as well with another comment I saw about a year ago when the board approved this years schedule. One member voiced his concern and expressed that in order for students to learn at their full potential they need to be in their seats. Constant interruptions of the schedule do not help those students. It would seem to me that breaking the week in the middle, if absolutely necessary, is not the best choice. Do it on Fridays. Many schools around the area do just that. Just saying......

-- Posted by love2liveinmccook on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 9:57 AM

2 things are to blame for this problem. The teachers union making it almost impossible to get rid of a bad teacher and inner city schools. With no clear way to get over this problem the government did what it does best, and put mandates in place. Really all they had to do was have the states put their foots down and not allow the tenure rule to be upheld.

Really kind of hard to explain. Try watching "Waiting for Superman" it really is eye opening. The problems presented in the show are the very reasons for these type of things. The problem is these mandates are put in place to try and up the quality of these inner city schools and the small schools get the overflow.

So in the end what "might be" helping the inner city schools comes back and takes away from the kids in smaller schools.

As far as country school vs city/town school I don't buy that argument at all. Yes it may have shown in your class but, making a claim based on 1 class out of millions over the years is hardly proof.

What it really comes down to is it starts with the parents. Parents should push their kids to their best. 2nd schools need the power of being able to fire a teacher based on performance.

-- Posted by carlsonl on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 10:59 AM

If kids are learning and understand what they are being taught then teachers don't have to "teach the test". I had teachers that "taught the test" and those who "taught the class" before No Child Left Behind came along. I did best with the ones who taught the class not the test but it's not like teachers just started doing this.

-- Posted by McCook1 on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 12:04 PM

What is amazing is that Mr. Trail actually had a half way slame on his hero old Bush II.

No child left behind is a joke and should be axed.

-- Posted by goarmy67 on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 7:35 PM

Kids should spend more time in classes. This may be hard on the teachers , administrators and students, but, in the long run, it is much better for the young students. They become more disciplined and smarter and that is really what we want for them.

-- Posted by bob s on Wed, Feb 22, 2012, at 9:53 PM

Pam Wolford is a very good teacher!

-- Posted by dennis on Thu, Mar 1, 2012, at 3:34 PM


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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It