Terry Cummins

Terry Cummins, Local Columnist

If we don’t learn anything, the world will end sooner than expected.

Politicians don’t learn much, because they choose to live abnormal lives, and they act before they think. Try teaching a know-it-all right from wrong.

School teachers believe they can make a difference in the improvement of humankind. They can and do, if all their children want to be in their classroom. Some don’t for various reasons. Those from stable homes usually do well. Those who don’t know where their mother or father is, keep that on their minds. Generally, “rich” kids perform better than “poor” ones do. Fast and slow learners learn at different rates. Therefore, teachers must individualize instruction. Rather than teaching a lesson to an over-flowing classroom, they should teach individualized ones, if there’s enough time in a day to do it.

Schools are criticized for not preparing all students up to standards. But not all are equipped to succeed in college-prep courses. For some students, learning to read at a fifth-grade level is quite an accomplishment. Have you ever been in a situation where the subject matter was way above your head? I have, and it soon becomes a drop-out situation.

There should be a standardized test given political candidates. It should test their mental capacity and their moral and ethical quotient. It might weed out those who are unfit for office.

All young people have potential, whatever their abilities. The Department of Education in Washington, or a local committee, should design a curriculum to meet every youngster’s needs. When all students can attain some degree of success in a school setting, they feel good about themselves and want to be there. Others don’t and make excuses, as adult Americans do.

During my exciting career as a high school principal, I kept pieces of paper that came across my desk that were particularly interesting or bizarre. When students missed school, they had to bring a note from a parent explaining the reason for the absence. My “absentee” box filled quickly.

These are some notes parents sent, unless the student forged their parent’s signature: Barbara missed because she has no blood and under doctor’s care. — Donna had a slight heart attack. — Donald went to the dentist and trouble set in. — Brenda’s glands and liver hurt her. — Jack’s pants ripped. — Bob’s shoes wore out. — John stepped in a groundhog hole. — Roy had the runs. — A doctor certified that Brenda has head trouble. — We took Thelma to see if she was pregnant. — Marie got married and took a little honeymoon. — Billy missed because there wasn’t a bite to eat in our house.

Who says that people don’t know how to express themselves? Trained teachers do, too. From the big box labeled, Teacher Notes: Brian locked the substitute teacher out of the room. — Travis shoved a crayfish brain under girls’ noses. — Robert tickled a girl so hard she wet her pants. — Sammy rubbed Connie’s thighs during orchestra class. — Scott cut class, said his ulcer reacted to the school lunch. — After being warned not to say Jesus, Sandra said Jesus again. — Ryan tried to put Wayne in a garbage can. — Danny disturbed class with a fart-gas can. — Chris played with a hopping toy penis. Who says restless students aren’t creative, which can drive teachers through a ceiling?

A highly dedicated English teacher reported: “When I opened my classroom door this morning, it had a condom hanging on it. This is a sick world, isn’t it?”

It certainly is, and our responsibility is to cure it by civilizing them. A teacher doesn’t have to perform magic tricks. It requires human skills, including purpose, commitment, dedication, discipline, knowledge of subject matter, kindness, consideration, and a belief that all students are worthy and possess unlimited potential. That’s not asking too much, is it?

I knew one certified teacher, who taught for only one day and then resigned, explaining, “This is not for me.” The first lesson a teacher should learn is that squirmy young people rebel against being glued to their seats.

I spent many days sitting in classrooms observing the teaching-learning process. Generally, teachers don’t realize the extent of the influence and impact they have on young lives. I remember those who inspired me to want to learn much more by challenging my mind.

I frequently asked students, “Who is your favorite teacher and why?” One student told me, “Miss Davis is because she knows what she’s doing.” That pretty much sums it up.

— Contact Terry Cummins at TLCTLC@AOL.com.

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