Sunday, April 27, 2008

An Educational Opportunity

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
C. S. Lewis

What a wonderful twist of philosophies C. S. Lewis puts forth. Nurturing is what all teachers should be about. Fostering the minds of children, who will one day be the political leaders, pastors, doctors and researchers of our world, is a very important job.

If only it were that simple. My kids are adults now, but it wasn’t so long ago that I was prayerfully striving to make choices for their best educational options. From preschool through college, (my daughter will graduate from Northern Arizona University on May 9th! Weeeeee!) there were always concerns, challenges and “issues” to deal with. We mostly went the private Christian school route for elementary, with a couple of short home-schooling intervals. High school included public and charter schools. College has been community and university. Huge Sigh.

I feel for parents as they make these choices and contend with schools, teachers and their children’s classmates. It sounds like I’m about 90 years old when I say that things have changed. “Back in the day…” blah blah blah! But it’s so true.

There are many more students with diagnosable mental and learning disorders, violent gangs, rampant drug and alcohol abuse. Students from every background come from homes where there is little supervision or attention to what they are up to. And often, these are the very parents who complain the loudest and the longest if their child gets in trouble or isn’t succeeding academically.

My daughter is a student teacher for a first grade class and much time is devoted to managing the behavior of a few children with special needs. Bureaucracy is at its strongest when it comes to having a child assigned to a special education program—it takes a very long time and a large team of people to make it happen.

My niece is a junior high teacher. She was recently verbally assaulted, then threats of serious harm were issued by a student. Was the student arrested or expelled? Of course not, initially. He got a slap on the hand and she was expected to be back at school as if nothing happened. But when other teachers rallied for her, the district’s decision-makers listened, resulting in the teen’s parents being given options of alternate schools for him to attend.

There is a shortage of good educators, and why not? Why would anyone subject themselves to such a daunting task with one hand tied behind their back? Our teachers need support and empowerment. Parents need to immerse themselves fully in their children’s lives, not making room for their privacy or “rights,” except for safety and provision. That’s love. That’s nurturing and “irrigating the desert.”

Use your voice; call your ELECTED school superintendents and tell them to stop coddling violent, substance abusing children. It may be the very wakeup call some families need to get help and it will certainly provide for a healthier, safer environment for the remaining majority of students and their teachers.
Diane Markins


Kay said...

You go Diane! Teachers need so much more support now a days. Teachers are the second lowest paid government job, the first being social workers. This is not a career that one chooses for the money. We choose to teach because we are drawn to helping, mentoring, and educating youths. We need parents and the community to have our backs!

John said...

Very true Diane. I think it's an important role as a parent to instill proper values like respect and integrity into their children. It often upset me when I would see kids blatently taunt a teacher, because they felt like they could "do what they wanted to". Well, to a degree that's understandable but they should value their opportunity for higher education, as opposed to looking at the process with disdain. I HIGHLY respect anyone that can endure the troubles caused by some teenagers-- and the community should definitely rally to support those courageous teachers!

Jerome Daley said...

Diane, you're addressing some crucial issues! There always seems to be some tension surrounding educating our children--how far do we go to protect them or shelter them from the world, how much do we try to integrate them into the world where they can affect culture.

For my wife and I, the answer has been a fairly simple one. From elementary school through middle, the chief objective is a SAFE environment for our children to learn without being subjected to hazardous situations or individuals. It's never perfect, but it can be relatively secure. This is the reason that we have chosen a combination of home schooling and private schooling for most of our kids' education so far.

It is our objective to equip them for making a difference in the world, and I believe high school and college can be--given the developmental progress of the individual child--a powerful venue for that very thing.

I greatly admire those that God calls into the public school arena to impact those environments with love and redemption! But there's no question that, by and large, they are missionaries sent into a war zone. Let's surround them with our prayers and support!

HisGirl said...

What a great reminder...we need to ramp up the prayers for our teachers. I led a Moms In Touch Group when my kids were in high school where our only focus was to cover the teachers, kids, administration, everything in prayer! So critical.

maggie said...

Our society has become one of placing blame instead of taking personal responsibility. It is a common idea that it is always someone else's fault. Teachers bear the brunt of this as they aim to mentor and teach the youth of today. Thank you for taking time this week to recognize and remind us of this. I try to take time to tell my childrens' teachers how much I appreciate and admire the effort they make each day...but I do not do this nearly enough. Let's remember to lift these men and women up in our daily prayers as they teach and mentor the future of our country.