Schools in the News

Two articles came out in the news today concerning how schools deal with problems. How schools get rid of teachers accused (and guilty) of sex offenses was one topic; the other focused on schools that pay their students for attending and for doing well on state/federal measurement testing.
As a retired educator, I could write volumes about how I think schools should be run. I’ve seen plenty and wondered plenty about how things could be better. I have taught in schools where the practice of giving creepy teachers a severance check and moving them on elsewhere was in force. Like so many unfair things in life, the creeps got paid off for being creeps while the good teachers just got their barely above minimum wage salaries. I see no difference between schools pushing bad teachers out to another school and the Catholic Church sending bad priests on to other churches. I’m thrilled that some school districts are now refusing to write references for teachers who have engaged in criminal acts, instead of giving them promises of confidentiality as to why they were let go, health insurance for six months, and a fat severance check. Those kind of people should be nowhere around children.
Should students be paid for attending school and doing well on mandated tests? All of us hope and wish that schools were so good that every student would find the inner motivation to be there every day and excel. The truth is that it’s hard to find inner motivation if you are rarely at school to begin with and your parents are so overwrought with daily life they neglect to encourage you scholastically. Money speaks to every income level and more so to the districts where there is not enough money to live or eat. As was pointed out in the news segment, rich kids get these financial incentives as a matter of course. Do well this semester and we’ll take you to Italy during summer break. Do well on your SAT’s and we’ll give you a car. If you get a hundred percent on your spelling test, you can go to the movie Saturday. If you pass the math test, I’ll buy you a guitar. $100 for every A, $75 for every B…
Here’s how I think it works: You get the kids there, and paid for good work according to their success, and it doesn’t take long before the love of the learning takes over, and the pride in accomplishment, and the money earned becomes sooner or later secondary to learning. If you want it to work even better, you teach those kids the benefit in saving their money in savings accounts for college. You take them to a bank and you show them and their parents how to get a savings account. The kids know they are headed for college. Their parents know the students are headed to college and they become cheerleaders for the future. You get cooperation and support from home and there’s nothing a student can’t do. If it works, don’t knock it. And in the meantime, put even more money into schools so the kids have good books, good teachers, good programs and good organic lunches. If you aren’t willing to support schools, then why would students ever think what they do there is of utmost importance?

Firsts

Yesterday I ground whole wheat into flour using our brand new Vita-Mix. I felt the way the ancients must’ve felt to see that their two stones together made a fine dust out of hard nuggets of grain.
Then I tried to make a loaf of bread using the recipe given. Something did not go right because I ended up with a brown mass, slightly hardened, that didn’t rise. I baked the gummy mess, and we ate it in little one-inch strips. It tasted great despite whatever mistakes I made.
I’ll try again tomorrow to see if I can improve the results. In the meantime, this “first” has got me to thinking about firsts in general. They usually don’t go perfectly, do they? The first time I drove, the first time I kissed a boy, the first time I had sex, the first day of my first job, the first interview, the first marriage, the first time I tried to follow instructions to put furniture together. Each one of these firsts is a story unto itself, a story of fumbling and nerves, of determination to start and afterwards, keep going.
I’m painting my front door today, gold to match the color of our shop, another first for me. And this is my first blog. I’ll keep going, n’importe quoi, (no matter what) because our brains like firsts. New synapses are born. Firsts keep us young and interested, if not a little enraged sometimes. The more firsts we have, the more we want, and the more we appreciate others going through their own firsts.
Happy Firsts to you!