This has not been a great year to be an educator. We have faced budget cuts, ever-increasing test-score expectations thanks to No Child Left Behind and more and more student behavior challenges.
Maybe I am just getting old, but it seems to me the job is getting tougher every year. As the end of another term nears, I have been led to put together this education credo, my personal philosophy of pedagogical performance.
I believe high school students should be able to stay awake for the full 86 minutes of block schedule period. Sometimes we all get sleepy. I understand that. But I don’t have sympathy. I have to say the same things and do the same activities with three groups of juniors over the course of two days. I manage.
Teens need to learn to deal with busy extra-curricular schedules in a way that allows them to be able to make it through a lecture or video without dozing off. If they can’t, they need to seriously consider changing their nighttime sleeping habits.
I believe students should respect their teachers—both the great ones as well as the mediocre ones. And, conversely, teachers should respect their students. Sometimes in the heat of battle, people say things without considering the consequences. When that happens, the offending person should be willing to apologize and make amends. We only go around once.
Teens need to remember that they never know when they might need a recommendation from a teacher for a scholarship or job application. Instructors need to occasionally remind themselves that they were once young people, too.
I believe students should be positive about their school, show some spirit and pride and get involved in making the halls a better place for everyone. When a job needs to be done, they should step up and work together for the good of the cause.
Instructors should attend games and programs, cheer their students on rather than sit at home and let disparagement fester. Get out and see what these young people are capable of doing.
I believe students should be truthful. They should not lie or cheat, and their parents should not enable dishonest behaviors by lying for their children.
School officials should never lie about students nor should they lie to students. We should not attempt to trick or manipulate them into submission.
I believe students should trust their instructors. But young people should be allowed, even encouraged, to politely and respectfully question what they are being taught. In fact, it has been my experience that thoughtful inquiry is one of the goals of education.
No one likes to be backed into a corner, however. I believe it was Ben Franklin who said, “You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
I believe teachers should periodically question what they are teaching, both the methodology and the material. They need to be open to new techniques and ideas, or they need to seriously consider a new profession.
That being said, I don’t believe they should completely abandon traditional methods for the sake of simply becoming entertainers for students. Sometimes, learning should be hard work.
I believe—are you listening, parents?—that students should be in school whenever possible. That might mean tougher truancy policies. Lack of attendance is one of the leading causes of academic failure. Parents, if your child is not puking or running a fever, send him or her to classes. Being tired should not qualify for a day off or a late start.
That seems like common sense, just as it seems reasonable that teachers, not substitutes, should be in front of the classroom as often as possible. We need to rework schedules to minimize instructor absences due to inservice events, activities and other non-educational pursuits.
I believe students should treat school as essential, a job that needs to be done and a place that they need to be. I believe they should stop acting like learning is a chore and homework is a curse.
Conversely, assignments by instructors should have a purpose other than just to keep students busy. I believe it is our primary role as educators to prepare students for the next step, whether college or the work force.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I believe that communities need to place a premium on the value of education. Judging from what I have seen and heard in my 30 years of living in Hillsboro, patrons of this district usually do. They have passed bond issues for school improvements, turned out for community forums and generally have been supportive of what USD 410 is trying to accomplish.
Now, more than ever, the voices of those who believe in quality schools and quality educators must be heard in this district, this county and especially this state. Continue to fight for us, and we will persist in providing the best educational opportunities for students we can.