Pass/Fail

Yesterday a young father spoke about the pass/fail system in his daughter’s school, replacing grades as a measure of learning.  He also spoke about what he perceived as a need for supporting home values in the school setting.

Later in the morning, I asked the daughter about school.  She talked about red, yellow and green days and how she didn’t get enough green days and how she might not get to first grade if she kept getting red days.  My mental visual was a car moving towards traffic lights and a red day was full stop.  The child’s perception was the punishment of repeating kindergarten because she didn’t ‘do good’  with the colors.

Recently, I toured a prospective kindergarten with my daughter-in-law as she made decisions about placement for the fall.  When I asked the teacher to talk about her philosophy of discipline, she responded:  “Oh, you must mean Class Room Management.”  Then she talked about charts, symbols to move for inappropriate behavior, a series of token rewards handed out after a week of non-disruptive behavior.  No.  I did not mean Class Room Management.  I meant Philosophy of Discipline.

Years ago, several colleagues and I stood against many of the self-esteem ‘innovations’ bombarding the classroom.   The idea of always  praising did not match our philosophy of discipline:  Teach a child to love doing what is right, rational, truthful and what matches the definition of good.  For the very young child, the classroom rules were:  Do Your Best,  Tell The Truth,   Be Kind.

At the continued behest of a friend I finally watched a weekly television program designed for high school students.  Whoa.   High school is not this granny’s high school any more.

A local NPR radio program scheduled for today will be a discussion of the media.  Is the media a Pied Piper (my concept) or is the media a mirror reflecting the reality of day-to-day life?

Tying this rant together takes a web, but there is a sticky connection.

The young father’s conservative values hold fast to a very basic conservative tenet–a flawed tenet–the assumption that everyone in the classroom shares a core of values.   He reads Bible stories to his children and that same Bible has no purchase in the lives of  other kids in the class.  Even if the teacher shares the same beliefs as the young father, the teacher can never overtly teach those values unless the setting is a private school based on shared beliefs.

Classroom Management evolved when punishment became a negative.  Punishment could no longer be a consequence of personal behavior.  Self esteem had to be saved at all cost.  No child could be made to feel bad, but still the classroom had to be managed.  Behavior charts ran rampant.

My classroom rules had the same fatal flaw.  Not everyone shared the idea that teaching kids to love doing right would keep them from doing wrong.  Not all family values matched the concept of respect for self and others.

The high school focused TV program bursts with beautiful and talented  actors pretending to be teens, singing and dancing in tune with thousands of dollars spent on years of lessons.  The wardrobe alone would break the bank of many families.   That being said, one of the clear and precise messages was acceptance of diversity.  Perhaps that message is well worth my discomfort at the vehicle of the message.

Pied Piper implies that the media is not a reflection but rather a shove, a lure, a force ever searching for more…more glitz, more sensation, more entertainment value to capture an audience for the advertisers.   Louder, longer, more outrageous, ratcheting against the boundaries, doing whatever it takes to get the viewer to buy the product while convincing the audience that the good life comes along with the product.

Pass/Fail?

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Science City At Union Station, KCMO

Through the generosity of a dear friend, my grandson and I spend part of most Fridays enjoying Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri.  Every minute is a new adventure and Sam considers Science City his favorite Friday place.

Volunteers staff much of the public activities, always pleasant and helpful, rarely reacting to the lesser side of human behavior.  There are definitely times when I wish it were my place to publicly applaud the volunteers and berate the adults who should be supervising children.

Because this blog may read like a rant, I want to be clear.  Most of my working life took place in elementary schools, teaching, taking field trips and working with all aspects of educating children.  I understand the rewards, the joys and the challenges.

Science City is a field trip, an educational experience designed to give students hands-on opportunities to test scientific principles.  It is a break from the classroom .  Granted some exhibits are inoperable but that is not the fault of Science City.  It would take thousands of dollars to constantly repair damage caused by careless and intentional  mistreatment.

It amazes me that some student groups wear identifying tee shirts, especially when running, without any visible supervision, causing near and real collisions with others trying to enjoy Science City.  Often adults wearing the same shirts are talking with one another, oblivious to what the students are doing.  Exhibits get mistreated so fellow students can laugh at the antics.  Younger kids are often pushed aside.

There is a room designed for the youngest visitors and the equipment is often misused.   Thomas the Train layout is  popular and kids wait for a turn at that table.  On two occasions, I have asked a child to return train cars being taken out the door.  Both times, the adult tried to wither me with a look while tossing the train piece back into the room.

A defense might be offered by saying that teachers cannot find enough parents to volunteer for field trips, that it is impossible for one or two teachers to adequately supervise a class size group of kids, that keeping the group together would cause long waits to participate in some activities.

All probably true, but treating Science City like a free range play ground is not the educational experience intended.  If adults consider  running, scuffles, and general horse-play as acceptable behavior then a public park might be a better Friday break from the classroom.

 

 

In The Shadow Of The Steeple (ccr)

“If you had been born and raised Catholic, you would not write the things you do.  You would understand.”  Words from a person recently joining Gentle Readers and bridling at certain blogs perceived as anti-Catholic.

In The Shadow Of The Steeple appeared in January, 2008.  It is a rerun in the interest of disclosure.  I intend to follow this with reruns of other blogs that are Catholic Church Related.

There is a huge chasm between being anti-something and being pro-reform.

In The Shadow of the Steeple

Shadow is a twin, a shaded place of respite and comfort as well as a shroud eclipsing what needs to be seen. The steeple of St. Peter’s represents an amazing heritage of doctrine and tradition, giving shelter and shadow to religion, family and community.

Most specific memories get boxed and stored because emotions are always stronger than detail.  I would have said that I did not have specific memories of grade school, but snippets are there.

After dinner to dark kick-the can in the alley, digging a foxhole in the backyard, reading on Mert’s screened porch, baby sitting for 25 cents an hour, Sunday night radio on the living room floor, seven for dinner almost every night of the week, chocolate pudding for dessert, bacon on Sunday, Dad’s famous cracker soup when the budget required….Snippets of a wonderful childhood.

Long sleeved blue serge uniforms, suffocating in the spring and early autumn…
Esterbrook pens, Script ink, coupons for Grapette pop after helping the teacher clean the classroom…Absolute silence as the class lined the hall waiting for a scheduled turn in the restroom…
The privilege of giving up recess to sell candy in Sister Mary Lawrence’s fourth grade classroom…
Suffocating green corduroy slacks and weskit designed to protect modesty while playing basketball…
Getting caught wearing pink Tangee lipstick to a basketball game…
The excitement of a school year spent in a small basement space when numbers overcame the available classrooms…
Crying over the story of a young saint martyred for refusing to surrender a host to his tormentors…
Tiny paper desk mangers waiting for a ‘good deed’ piece of straw as part of Christmas preparation…
Believing–totally believing–in being Catholic…
Praying as if an answer would come…
Confessing to ease the original guilt I never understood…
The sound of snow when Susan and I did the winter walk to 6:00 Mass each morning…
Longing to play basketball without embarrassing myself as Mary Jo finessed every part of the game…
Daring the first peek at my report card, needing grades somewhere close to the standard set by Jack…
Overwhelmed by the importance of responsibility when walking with Bobby to school or to the store. “Take care of him”, was Mom’s standard.
The anticipation of recess on the girls’ side of the playground…a space with few trees and pocked asphalt. Our jump ropes and a handful of jacks the only equipment…
Rare occasions of newspaper wrapped lunch carried to school…
Terror in the stomach when Msgr. McKenna looked at me for the spelling of ‘transubstantiation’…
Awe remembering Sister Mary Regis handling 51 eighth graders with few discipline issues…
Thursday night devotions perfumed by incense and followed by a cherry coke at the Confectionary…
Wondering why a young priest rarely called on a girl for the answer to questions from the catechism…
The deliberate disobedience of stashing our winter slacks under bushes on the way to school…
Retrieving them stiff with cold on the way home…
Shame when I did not always defend the three ‘special needs’ kids in our class…
The choir nun telling me to stand on the back row and move my lips…
Having Mom and Dad discover that I charged candy bars for my friends at McCarty’s mom and pop…
Hating the hand-me-down blue winter coat worn my seventh grade winter…
Loving the off-white coat that Mom sewed the next winter…
Wondering if I actually fit into any group and praying that I did…
Embarrassment at making cheer leader only because few others bothered to try out…
Consuming pride when a teacher wrote a positive comment on my paper…
Guilt at my lack of humility and failure to thank God for the work that earned the comment…
Absolutely loving school…

Snippets that, from this distance of over 60 years, have the richness of warm chocolate swirled with cream.

I am intensely grateful for my education at St. Peter’s Parish and the Catholic community surrounding every part of those years. And that comforting vapor called time has given me the gift of acceptance for the chasm between some of the teaching and the reality of my life experience.

Out of the Darkness

When I taught elementary school, we called our circumstance Cupcake Land, a near perfect convergence of parents, community, school district, students and teachers.   Westwood View Elementary in the Shawnee Mission District was as close to an ideal setting as any of us had experienced.

And now?  Now I must live in Chocolate Syrup- Strawberry Shortcake- Heath Bar-Cheesecake-Land.   My family continues to surround me with themselves–my greatest gift.

And my neighbors?   This rural road in Platte County, Missouri wins the Academy Award of amazingly nice people.

For whatever reasons,  there are times that I don’t sleep much.  At 2:30 AM it was time to get up and check out the damage from the snow storm.   By 4:00, the snow had stopped and the outside lights reflected enough to begin the routine.   By 7:00, I was ready to sell the place for $1.35, move to Arizona and bask.

In the early darkness, a tractor rumble came from the lower drive.

A tractor?  Steve is Lancelot on a white uni-loader not a blue tractor and Dave’s tractor isn’t blue.

Here is the  story.

Steve is in Tennessee, stranded by a fuel pump problem.  So Steve phones Brian of the blue tractor and asks Brian to help with my driveway.

Are you believing this, Gentle Reader?

Steve, several states away, concerned about my driveway.  Brian, a neighbor, probably ready for work, come here instead and makes multiple passes with a six-foot blade, clearing  what would have taken me more hours to complete.    Maybe I want to revise that selling price for my home— as in ‘not for a million dollars”.

Along 7th Street, KCK

Beautiful early morning in August, nice break in the weeks long heat, minimal traffic, our drive moves from industrial Fairfax to suburban streets.  Pocked with abandoned houses, boarded retail, Minnesota Avenue businesses holding steady, workers heading to the City Hall, Court House and a corner casino the drive brings many memories of early years in Kansas City, Kansas.  Hindsight is never that 20/20 of credit, but this place came close to a perfect village.

We encountered school buses this first week of return to classes.  Many corners had families waiting.  The  children of many colors were beautiful, some eager, some clinging, some even crying but the family stood together going back to school.  I wanted to be part of it, part of the classrooms where new family type relationships formed in safety and acceptance.  Wonder why it is that, as we grow-up, we unlearn many of the best lessons of our childhood school days?

Education

Each time I read about failing schools, drop-out rates and dumbed-down curricula I am usually reading a lament about the quality of teaching. No Child Left Behind was worthy in concept attempting to address many problems including functionally illiterate high school graduates.  NCLB addresses the problem at second-stage rather than source.

A recent email circulated a circa 1930 eighth grade graduation test. The email talked about the amazing depth of the testing and the fact that “only an eighth grade education” was not synonymous with under-educated. In fact, the email challenged college graduates to take and pass the test.

Elementary teachers interact with students approximately six hours a day for 185 days each year. Middle and high school teachers have far less one-to-one contact with individual students. Principals and counselors are expected to be behavior specialists fighting the daily disruptions that are crushing the educational process. In-School-Suspension is just one of the strange concepts developed to remove kids from the classroom while accepting that parents don’t have time to step-up to the problem.

Of course, there are problems in our schools. My return to college when my children were in elementary school happened because I witnessed the problems.  My determination was to be part of the solution.

Teachers do not need a defense from me. Day after day, teachers return to the classroom, determined to make a difference, to address the problems and educate our children. And the rewards certainly don’t come in the form of high salaries. The rewards come because students are important and teaching is a way to be part of the solution.

Teachers cannot monitor nutrition, hours of sleep, quality of friendships, choice of heroes, time spent on video games, texting with friends, homework completion, hanging out at malls, forms of discipline, behavior expectations and television, music and movie choices.

Teacher definitely do not need a defense from me. What they do need is a new paradigm in which education is higher up the scale of cultural values.

Ownership

by Pat Antonopoulos

An  experience evolving from one of my volunteer activities simply won’t leave me alone.   A committee planned a special event at a local college. The event centered on a ceremony being held at a nearby church  not directly connected to the small school.  As a community building effort, the church was willing to share the facility.

Part of my responsibility focused on the music, organ and vocal. Because the event reached out to the students and the community, we wanted to involve the students in all phases.  A search was begun to find a student with the skill to play the organ and additional students to sing selected pieces.

Over 55 years ago, I attempted to learn this very organ, but did not have the training or skill. The organ has been in the choir loft for well over 60 years, belonging to the people of that faith community.

A courtesy call to the current church organist left me confused and brought me to this blog about ownership.

When I gave the information to the organist, stressing the student participation and expressing the hope of finding a students to  play and sing, the response was:
“That will be a disaster!  A student would not have the skill.  I cannot sanction that plan.  I play the organ and my fee is $—.00.”

Ownership.  Interesting concept.