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“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care…” (Anonymous)
Lately, teachers have been all over the news. Additionally, we will celebrate “Teachers Appreciation Day/Week,” (May 6-10). Since 1985, the Tuesday (May 7) of that week has been observed as “Teachers Appreciation Day.”
This is an opportunity for citizens and supporters to show their appreciation and reaffirm their commitment to the parent-teacher-student partnerships.
Being a former social worker, part-time teacher, youth and family counselor, school volunteer, and juvenile probation officer, I have nothing but the highest regard and profound admiration for teachers.
Teachers are truly America’s “unsung heroes.” Yes, they are!
Teacher are one of our “best bangs for the bucks.” Teachers are cost effective on a daily basis and an ongoing investment that yields great dividends for our future. Among many attributes, they mentor, encourage, challenge, discipline and empower our students. Their works and contributions are a national treasure that keeps on giving…for us and our children.
Over the many years and decades, I have seen teachers work indefatigably to overcome the many obstacles that confront our students: parental noninvolvement, student apathy, insufficient funding, inadequate leadership, negative environment, debilitating subculture, and the like.
Most teachers perform a true “labor of love.” And, they epitomize the principle and philosophy of “A life is unimportant except for the impact that it has upon others.” (Jackie Robinson)
Teachers manifest the purest sense of the helping relationship – helping others to become all that they can be. Teachers empower our children to become whole, curious and optimistic. They give our students guidance, hope, inspiration and promise.
With few exceptions, I have found teachers to be competent and caring. I have seen teachers give students their “roots of responsibility” and “wings of wonderment.” They have insured that “no child is left behind,” long before someone created the slogan.
I have seen teachers go the extra mile to “make things happen” for their students. If it were important or needed, they made it happen for their students. In coping with their students’ anxiety, alienation and ailments, I have seen teachers take on the roles of mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, mentor, tutor, counselor, mediator, disciplinarian, policeman, referee, judge, peacemaker, preacher, nurse, director, organizer, taskmaster and, more importantly, full-time “human being.”
I have seen teachers go in pocket for school supplies, teaching aids, refreshments, recreations, parties, plays, PTA meetings, school outings, and all kinds of things. Further, I have known teachers to buy students – and other family members – clothes, food baskets, shoes, personal items, household appliances and the like. I know teachers who have gotten utilities turned back on and paid the rent. I know teachers who visited homes after hours and on the weekend trying to empower students and families.
In short, teachers give hope and promise to our children. They are a breath of fresh air and an oasis of hope. When it comes to teachers, I think of the poet, Maya Angelou: “Hope has conspired with the wind and blown away the demons of despair.” Along with parents, teachers are our “hope” when it comes to our children.
Therefore, we should encourage all teachers to attain their maximum potential in the classroom. We need to give teachers room to operate and allow them “to do their thing” in the classroom. Teachers need our respect and cooperation in order to “get the job done” for us and our children.
Let me say it “loud and proud”: Teachers are my heroes! Teachers are on the front lines and in the trenches fighting for our children’s education and survival. Yes, teachers are my heroes, especially those who go out of their way to “make it happen” for our children. Over the years, I have seen so many good, honorable, valuable and decent teachers. I thank God for them! They are my heroes.
SOME GRASSROOTS CONCEPTS AND SELF-HELP STRATEGIES FOR EMPOWERING NORFOLK PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“If it is to be, it is up to me.” (S) William H. Johnsen (Author/Educator)
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” (S) Old Chinese Proverb; Eleanor Roosevelt; Among Others
Beginning this school year, Virginia Public Schools will implement “new” state accreditation standards and graduation requirements. Accordingly, the “new” change will adjust the current ratings system and add requirements for students to earn a high school diploma.
The new ratings will incorporate pass rates for the Standards of Learning test and factor in English and math progress, achievement gaps, absenteeism and dropout rates. Accreditation will still be denied to struggling schools that fail to follow state-required implementation plans.
Under this “new” system, students will need to pass fewer SOL exams and the number of verified credits will drop from six to five. Supposedly, the state wants to help those schools that serve low-income communities and are improving to avoid being unfairly labeled as failing.
For the past several years, there has been news aplenty about Norfolk Public Schools’ dilemmas, problems, shortcomings, and failures. Much of the news has been about test scores, graduation levels, accreditation rates, teacher shortages, administration leaders, board members, charter schools, and the like.
Additionally, during this period, I have found black males to be the ones most adversely affected in NPS. Generally speaking, black males are more likely to drop out (academically and behaviorally) and/or graduate with a low/minimal grade point average, usually an average of “C” or below. As a result of this “lesser education,” black males are more likely to be unemployable, involved in the criminal justice system, and not be positive contributors in their families and communities.
Something is not right here. Or, is it just I? Anyhow, we need to begin to do whatever it takes to make things better for “all” of NPS’ students. From my experience and perspective, I have found most teachers to be competent and caring. Over the years, I have seen teachers “do their share” and give students their “roots of responsibility and wings of wonderment.” I sincerely believe that most teachers do the best they can with what they have to work with.
Being an “old timer” of 78 years, I firmly believe that self-help begins at home. And, I strongly believe that the family is the “best department of health, education, welfare, and salvation.” As such, parental involvement needs to begin at birth. Parents need to motivate and nurture their children from infancy. This needs to be an ongoing and unrelenting task. All along, children need to be loved, supported, encouraged, and supervised.
Most child development researchers and early education experts agree that the first 5-6 years are the most important ones in determining a child’s eventual success in school and life. Furthermore, educational data and child development research show that all children — including those at risk and economically disadvantaged – perform competitively with other students when they come from households where education is valued and reinforced on a consistent and positive basis.
Being a supportive parent and devoted caregiver are very challenging jobs. We are responsible for so much: our children getting enough sleep, eating right, dressing appropriately, doing homework, getting to school on time, staying out of trouble, having a positive attitude, and the like. In sum, parents (should) have the ultimate responsibility for the preparedness and successfulness of their children in school and life. For, no one can take the place of “parents,” when it comes to these duties, responsibilities and obligations.
Just as importantly, “we” can work on the inherent basics and necessary prerequisites for empowering and attaining an adequate education for our children: (1) married mothers and fathers; (2) involved and supportive (two) parent households; (3) supportive extended families, especially from the patriarchal side; (4) students attending school, behaving, and doing the required work; and (5) doing everything humanly possible for ourselves, regardless of what others (government, churches, agencies, organizations, etc.) do for us.
All parents, especially those with children who are at risk and economically disadvantaged, need to be(come) knowledgeable as to how the “education process” really works. Parents need to involve themselves in every aspect of their children’s education. They need to have “high expectations” and convince their children “they can.” Our children need to learn how to “work harder and smarter.” They must come to believe and epitomize “if it is to be, it is up to me.” Our children need to be filled with optimism, for pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As the old adage goes, “It is better to light a candle…than to curse the darkness.” At this point and juncture, “we” need to begin lighting the candles for “our” children.
IMPROVING OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
“It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken men.”(S) Frederick Douglass
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (S) Albert Einstein, Among Others
The issue of “improving” our public schools lies before us as never before. Accordingly, I got to thinking about what “we” can do to significantly “improve” our public schools for our children…and for our nation.
Recently there has been much discussion in the news media pertaining to the various education “horror” stories about our public schools. It has been reported that America’s public schools are falling behind other schools in the international community. This is especially true when it comes to our inner city, at risk and disadvantaged student populations. For example, America’s schools are increasingly falling behind in vital subjects such as “STEM,” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and foreign language proficiency.
There is much conversation about what to do and how to catch up with the world’s more efficient and effective education programs, particularly among the more modern, developing and advanced nations. However, there is one topic/solution that I find to be routinely omitted from “resolving America’s education dilemma.”
That vital and critical component is the “disciplinary” shortcomings and realities that exist in too many of our declining and failing schools. Moreover, this vital and critical aspect of the “teaching-learning” process is still being hampered and something needs to be done about it. In this era of “political correctness” and “don’t blame the victim,” not many people will even utter its name or cause.
Probably the number one problem in (too many of) our public schools is “discipline.” There are still too many disruptive students and uncaring parents in our midst. Too often, these students are tolerated and allowed to go unchecked. Too often, they prevent teachers from teaching and students from learning. An answer has to be found for this ongoing dilemma, otherwise, further improvement in our public schools will be difficult – if not impossible – to achieve. In essence, these “few” are detrimental to the “many.”
These “few” are discipline problems for an assortment of reasons, beginning with birth conditions and family upbringing. They need help and they should be given help. However, they and their parents need to be held accountable for their disruptive conduct and flagrant behavior.
Many of these children get very little support and involvement from their parents and other caregivers. They come to school unprepared: lack of sleep, nourishment, nurturing, supervision, and the like. They come to school without pencil, paper or book. They lack a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for learning. Many of these issues/problems are beyond the scope of the classroom teacher.
Accordingly, these students act out and become disruptive in the classroom to the detriment of everyone else. They lack motivation and fail to understand the importance of getting a “good education.” Too often, parents don’t care, or they don’t have the capacity to bring their children under control.
Imagine how much more progress could be made with our children if we could eradicate this “discipline problem.” Parental involvement and family support are key components of the “education triad”: student-parent-teacher. It takes all three to ensure a quality education for all of our children. Our children need to be encouraged to perform and achieve at their maximum potential.
It has been said that it takes a whole village to raise a child. However, I firmly believe that the parents/family of that child need to be at the center and forefront of that village. This calls for the parents/family to give love, support and guidance. Only they can ensure that this is done – daily, regularly, consistently and unrelentingly. This should be(come) their “labor of love.”
My comments are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. This issue is highly intricate and innately complex. Furthermore, we must bring it out into the open and deal with it. Otherwise, we will miss an opportunity to “make things better” for all of our children. Therefore, let us do whatever is necessary for improving our public schools for all of our children.
DELETE THE NEGATIVES AND ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES: WE CAN DO THIS!
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (S) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At times I see so much hatred, racism, anger, greed, selfishness and fear among our citizenry.
So much is going on when it comes to racial distrust, social polarization and political divide.
Accordingly, I decided that I could be a “spectator,” or I could be a “participant.”
In choosing to be a “participant,” I identify with Robert Kennedy: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
In effect, both political parties are full of partisan gamesmanship and there appears to be no cease-fire in sight. However, it is time for us to come together, regardless of political party, and do what is best for America. At this critical time in history, our country “needs” us. She is challenging us to do our very best.
True, America is not without her “bruises, blemishes and blockages,” but she is still, by far, the best when it comes to freedom, opportunity and progress. In short, America is not perfect, but she is far better than her contemporaries are.
Despite sometimes demagogic behaviors and xenophobic attitudes, there has been a mostly positive renaissance in America in (overall) terms of the economy, education, empowerment and equality of her peoples. America is still great because she has an innate strength and enduring stamina to heal her bruises and cleanse her wounds. America is still great, because she steadfastly promotes optimism and assertively overcomes pessimism. Moreover, America is still great because she indefatigably promotes inspiration and consistently defeats alienation.
We are Americans. We can achieve this “unachievable dream.” Yes, we can, for we have come so far and done so much together. Also, it is time for our politicians (public servants?), corporate managers, financial stakeholders, civic leaders and public citizens to “work together” to heal our wounds and solve our problems, first and foremost.
I firmly believe that most Americans want what is best for our fellow citizens and our country: fairness, opportunity, responsibility, education, respect, equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing more. Nothing less.
If “we” work together, this can be accomplished. Our history, heritage and humanity demand and require this of us. And, we should always remember that “power and strength reveal not who you are…but what you are….”
We are all in this together. In this effort, we are one and we are the same. When it comes to this, there is no “we” or “they.” No “them” or “us.”
America has enough riches and wealth for all of us to be adequately provided for. There are enough natural resources, human resources and technology resources for all of us. There really are.
We don’t need any more hellfire and brimstone; we need unity and utility. We don’t need any more negativity and pessimism; we need positivity and optimism.
We must believe in ourselves…and in each other…if we fail…our America fails. And, in this circumstance, failure is not an option. We are at the precipice of what could be…what can be. This is our opportunity to fulfill our aspirations, hopes, dreams, ambitions and potentialities. This is our chance to do “good” for all of us. In today’s world, we need more camaraderie, commitment and compassion. Together, we can make a difference. Sometimes, we must put our country’s overall best interests ahead of our party politics. Sometimes, there is a need for a society and culture of “we,” instead of a society and culture of “me.”
We must get away from the selfishness of: I have gotten mine; good luck with getting yours, too. We should remember the Chinese Proverb: “Be kind to everyone. (Almost) Everyone is going through something unbeknownst to you.”
Collectively, we must learn to shine a light, rather than curse the darkness. Basically, “we” all want the same rights, privileges, freedoms, responsibilities, and the like, right? Sometimes, we must strive for the common good, general welfare and more perfect union.
Working together in the spirit of “e pluribus unum,” we can do this. Together, as Americans, we can overcome the hatred, racism, anger, greed, selfishness and fear. Yes, we can!