Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Would Today's Teachers Do?

The picture goes a long way back - to when my brother and I went to a two-room school. As I looked at the picture I thought to myself: "With all the upsets in our 21st Century school system, how would our teachers in today's society handle what teachers in 1940 contended with.
I know that one of our daughters is a teacher and we are very proud of her. But she may be a bit concerned and maybe upset by what I am going to say in this blog.
If you look closely at the picture you will see two teachers - Mrs. Hall at the lower left and Mr.Crounce in the top row. Mrs. Hall taught grades one through four. Mr. Crounce, in a room next door, taught grades five through eight. And if you look closely, neither of them looked young - especially Mr. Crounce, who was well along in years, was an amazing person who taught all kinds of classes - reading, writing, 'rithmatic, geography, history, --- you name it - he taught it. Well, I need to back up a bit - he did not teach music - they had a traveling music teacher who came for an hour or so every week or so. And what I want to emphasize is that unless a student had a significant mental problem (and there were one or two that did) he or she eventually graduated from the two room school to the "big" high school seven miles away able to read, write, and handle a reasonable level of mathematics.
It could not have been an easy job working with four classes at the same time. The teacher would work for a while with one class then move back a row to the next class (a grade higher)
and then back a row to another class until he or she reached the eighth grade when they would go back to the fifth grade at the front of the classroom. It meant that teachers had to work with all levels - and it also meant that students had to spend a lot of time on their own. And when the year was done each class moved back a row and the eighth grade moved out the door.
I am very proud of the fact that I went to a two room school. I have great memories of Mr. Crounce and Mrs. Hall - and I credit a lot of my talents and abilities to the educational foundations they built in my life. I think to myself that a lot of the great people of the past 65 or 70 years - people who brought us into the electronic - atomic - scientific - intellectual world of today were people who might have come out of a one or two room school beginning.
The nearest thing I can see today is home teaching and at least two of our daughters did just that - and did it successfully. I think some Charter Schools deserve a lot credit as well.
I read recently that the city of Detroit will be closing over forty schools in June. To make matters worse, the knowledge level of students is often deplorable. Why? We've seen a change of educational priorities. Sometimes students who aren't able to read graduate from high school
perhaps because they have skills in sports. Sports and other peripheral activities often are given priority over basic educational subjects that are essential to being able to cope with the workplace. I have a problem with the priorities of education within the teaching profession. Granted, teachers deserve and need a fair and equitable support package. But in many cases teachers don't seem to exhibit the same outlook on teaching that Mr. Crounce and Mrs. Hall had - and I venture to say that they worked for peanuts because they truly loved working with young people - after all, this picture reflects the era of the Great Depression. Please notice that both of them are smiling. In short, I deeply appreciate the gifts and sacrifices my teachers made for me.
I don't want to blame school administrators and teachers for all the shortcomings of where we are today -- a lot of the fault lies with parents as well. And with distractions like television, video games, and entertainment as well. We didn't have those back in the 1930's and early '40's. All we had was personal social life and a different quality of life.
Guess I'll just close with a hat's off to those parents who home teach, and to those people who seem to have some old-fashioned priorities in life. Maybe I'll keep my prayers aimed at the hope that traditional values will be brought back because they are the basis of good ethical, moral values on which our country was built.

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