It has been about twenty days since the opening of our new 2016-2017 school year, and I’m confident that our teachers have worked especially hard in getting their students to invest in their learning,
helping their students find meaning in what they are being asked to do, keeping learning real and connected to students’ interest. This, in itself, is an awesome task, attesting to the fact that teaching is challenging and complex.
Being a retired high school teacher, I have no reservations saying that those persons who will have the most direct impact on student outcome this school year will be our classroom teachers, standing on the front line each day, preparing to take on the tremendous challenge, that of committing to the success of every child, by embracing students’ various learning styles. No doubt, in the early days of this new school year, teachers have worked hard to create a welcoming classroom for students from all backgrounds, not wanting to miss out on a new year full of possibilities and promise.
To better realize those possibilities and promise of the new school year, I’m also confident that our teachers have been about the business of “sowing the seeds” of self discipline, helping our students see the value of following instructions and having a good attitude when interacting with others. These are skills that will serve our children and youth very well in life, while allowing them to function better in the
educational setting, from listening, asking questions and dealing with anger.
Another important issue in our efforts to reform education is the resolve to be able to reach all learners, Even though the recent reporting of Sampson County Schools’ test scores indicates our local schools are achieving at higher levels, something we need to applaud and celebrate, we must also acknowledge there still exists an uneven playing field for many of our students, resulting in a glaring achievement gap.
Let me be clear, increasing the reach of caring and effective classroom teachers will do more than anything else this school year in positively impacting student achievement. Col, Tommy Macon, the assistant superintendent for curriculum was spot on when he said it starts with knowing every student. He further explained, “it’s important to understand the needs of our students, then give them what they need to be successful.”
Our schools’ test results should also be used to find ways to improve teaching and learning, with the key being to get all teachers leading their students to much better outcomes. As a school system, we must do more to help those students who consistently score below grade level and are not proficient on end-of-course tests. According to educational activist Ignacio Estrada, “If students can’t learn the way we teach, why don’t we teach the way they learn?”
Teachers, this year, let’s be about the business of helping students get what they need to learn and thrive.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.