Is change always better?

By Joe Rector

My how times change. Older folks said this in past years, but I never thought that I’d utter those words. In my observations, the changes that surprise me deal with education.

Not so long ago, teachers began to require that students complete summer reading assignments. They were also required to produce papers on those books. We who were high school students in the last century scoff at that kind of requirement. We walked out the doors of school on the last day of the term and gave little, if any, thoughts of spending summer time completing a school assignment. The break from school refreshed us, and not requiring that work made sure that none of us began the year with a bad grade. We’d achieve that when school opened again.

The ending of teaching cursive writing is a shock. Those of us who are old remember the beginnings of learning to write our letters. For hours, we traced them and then tried to correctly construct them on paper with a top and bottom line, as well as a dotted line in the middle. We toiled to perfect our ABC’s.

In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, teachers demanded that we learn a new style of writing. Gone were the straight- line letters; they were replaced with all sorts of curves and loops in letters. Cursive writing tried our patience and led to stress as we continued to make mistakes. Eventually, all of us created at least acceptable cursive writing. It was our individual style, but the letters met the requirements of the teacher.

In composition classes, I demanded that all students use cursive writing. I placed the ABC’s in cursive above the board and had students write them five times at the beginning of each class. Students complained but complied. They eventually became skilled in handwriting that was readable.

Another thing that amazes me is the use of the computer. Teachers post homework assignments on a program called Canvas. Students can complete their work and then submit it to the teacher on the same program. Teachers can also post notes and instructional material so that students who miss school can easily stay current in work or can make up missing assignments.

Teachers also use technology to send messages on phones or computers. They can explain assignments to students, add more work, and keep in touch with parents about student grades, attendance, and behavior. Grades are posted on line, and parents are able to access them on a site so that they can see what their children’s efforts look like. Of course, the leaders of classrooms and parents at home or work must be savvy enough with computers and cell phones to be able to accomplish these things.

These days, folks don’t need to listen to the radio or television to discover whether or not schools are closed for inclement weather. The system is able to call interested individuals with that information. The only problem that still exists is the decision-making process that occurs in the system’s administrative offices on the subject.

School seems too difficult these days. Yes, we have plenty of folks who sit in offices and determine what is necessary for students. I’m a firm believer in face-to-face contact with students and parents. I also am sure that the more a student handwrites material, the better he recalls it. Summer work puts school in the same boat as athletics: both are becoming year-round things that wear down young people. Maybe a few old practices might improve the situation without endangering the education of children. It’s a tough world out there. Let’s let kids be kids for just a while.

 

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