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Where I Stand: Retired teacher responds to sweeping generalizations

By Lorraine Nielsen

Crescent Mills

As a retired, veteran K-12 teacher (30+ years, some in this county), I was startled, dismayed, and offended by the recent “Where I Stand” that focused on schools being “perfectly designed for what they are producing: bored failure.” Wow. The writer did not specify at what age levels nor where poor educational practices exist, so the reader is left to consider these sweeping generalizations about students hating school and most teachers not caring about their students refer to everywhere and are absolute. Is this an attack on Plumas County teachers and schools or the entirety of educational institutions, public and private, in the U.S.?

Although the art of teaching has to some extent been constricted by curriculum mandates in recent years, teaching the whole child with creativity and caring are stated primary goals of education in this country. What examples can the writer offer that students’ “security and significance needs” are not being addressed and that classrooms focus only on “how and what, but never why?” I cannot speak for all teachers and classrooms, but I have certainly witnessed and participated in many engaging classrooms where the students’ interests and curiosities are tied closely to the course of study in a particular subject, where daily there is a “conscious effort” to foster a lifelong love of learning. Further, the assumption the writer makes about teachers not engaging students’ imaginations and coaxing students’ love of a subject puts the entire responsibility on the teacher, with no effort of positive attitude and openness required of the student.

“They are forced to go to school…They come to hate it.” Framed in the positive to the young person: “You have the opportunity to go to school and enjoy learning about so many things!” Attitude toward any endeavor is a choice. While I agree that many students’ priorities are “friends, sports, and studies—always in that order,” contrary to the writer’s suggestion this is a problem, it is a reality of youth and does not necessarily need to be “reversed.” Schools are a community place of learning on many levels:  In addition to academic and practical skills learned in the classroom, development of social skills and personal growth takes place during the building of friendships, participation in “meaningful” activities such as sports fosters development of teamwork skills, determination, persistence, and resilience.

Lastly, The Little Prince is my favorite book; it has enchanted and inspired me since I was young. I read it aloud in my classroom of 6th graders every year and they absorbed the exquisite life lessons of St. Exupery’s magnificent fable.  I resent the use of its profundities as fodder to attack the entire educational system. If you think the flaws of the system are universal, please offer specific solutions rather than discuss education in such disparaging, broad strokes.


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