Miss Viola Swamp, “the meanest substitute in the whole world,” knows that good instruction is the key to classroom learning.
Miss Nelson Miss Swamp is not alone. An excellent OpEd published in the State Newspaper and authored by former public school teacher Jon Stafford explains:
Motivation, communication, teacher input key to fixing education
“As a high school history teacher for 30 years (I retired from Ridgeview High in 2007), I have watched the public school system erode year by year. Any teacher of experience will tell you that the system has been dummied down tragically.
“Students do not think education is of much relevance to their lives. The job world is more complicated with every passing year, and students cannot imagine what they will need because they no longer do much reading.
“The biggest problem is inept local and state leaders who are neither reformers nor educators. If you have been out of the classroom for more than three years, you are out of touch with how to teach or even how to support teachers. The principals I have known had the least understanding of teaching of anyone in the school. Most were trained as coaches and had never taught an academic class. They never set foot in our classrooms. They evaluated us, while we never got to evaluate them.
“The S.C. Department of Education is even more distant from the classroom. Most of its dictums could not pass a common-sense test. One well-meaning recent idea is that classes should have “standards,” a basic body of knowledge. The problem is that no application of these standards is demanded. All the students have to do is learn a few things for a test. Then they can forget everything. There are no essays to prove that they have mastered concepts. This encourages teachers to just follow the book, never add anything interesting on their own, teach to the tests and stop giving writing assignments.
“How to improve things?
• A child who cannot maintain a “C” average or make an 80 on the PSAT needs to go to vocational school. As every teacher knows, there is no more ludicrous idea in education than that every child should go to college. Some kids are hands-on kids who cannot sit at a desk or computer, but could make a good living with a vocational skill. And yet they think they can make a 1.2 GPA and go to Duke and be a surgeon.
• Let a rotating group of veteran teachers decide academic issues.
• Motivate the kids. They don’t know that they don’t know anything. Show them the relevance of education!
• Make communication the basis of schoolwork. If your children cannot make a multi-paragraph argument in written form, what do they have going for them?
“It is little wonder that students fail to see the wondrous opportunity of a free public education. The system they face has a watered-down, 50-year-old curriculum run by people who do not understand teaching. As a result, the high school students I’ve seen spend about 60 percent of their time socializing, and only about 40 percent doing anything that remotely could be described as academic.”