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September 9, 2013

CUMMINS: Every classroom is a one-room school

(Continued)

After spending 52 years in schoolhouses as student, teacher and administrator, I do have experience, which is a teacher. That half century taught me that what happens in each classroom is what matters, not the chain of command, the bureaucracies and “authorities” shuffling papers and do’s and don’ts to lower-rung staff members. Education is what transpires during the dynamics of the teaching-learning process in each classroom. When a teacher says, “I love teaching my kids,” don’t bother her, praise and support her. But we do bother them at the local, state and federal levels. 

When finances get tight, who goes, administrators, specialists and desk jobs? No, teachers go, and/or schools close. Staffing (teachers) is the major portion of school corporation budgets. So, you cut teachers and increase class sizes. If an elementary teacher can teach 25 students, why not 35? If a high school teacher can teach 150 students (five classes of 30 students each day), why not increase the class size to 35 and 175, saving money? By semester break, the teacher might know her students’ names. The worst budget crunch situation I ever observed was a second grade with 52 students. Fifty-two desks were squeezed into the room, and the children were stacked like dominos.  

There are good teachers, those not so good and a few master ones. How many master teachers did you have? I had a couple and one in particular. Mrs. Lucy inspired me to want to learn much more. Teaching in the Orient, Scandinavia and many other countries is a prestige job. They hire the best and get results. We hire coaches and some are good teachers, but others draw up plays while their students sit glazed and gazing. School boards frequently place greater priority on hiring winning basketball coaches than on hiring the best teachers. When the public is willing to pay and insist administrators and school boards place learning, not local politics, as the priority, we’ll begin to see results. Winning teams and winning schools are two different things as is reading and balls of different shapes.

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