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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Random Thoughts on education

  • Just completed compiling a story on the Marvell-Elaine School District's 21st Century Community Learning Center after school program from information provided me by the district's literacy coach, Liz Easley. It seems students are learning to make moveable robots from Lego materials. I was fascinated by the fact that here is a...
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  • Just completed compiling a story on the Marvell-Elaine School District's 21st Century Community Learning Center after school program from information provided me by the district's literacy coach, Liz Easley. It seems students are learning to make moveable robots from Lego materials. I was fascinated by the fact that here is an education program that is daring to turn back the hands of time and is returning to a period when learning was truly a fun experience. Despite the fact that I have entered my sixth decade, I am not opposed to necessary change. Education had to evolve because of the tremendous strides that have been made in modern technology. With the coming of the home computers, iPhones, iPads and all sorts of Buck Rogers in the 21st Century gadgets, the education process had to adapt to the rapid changes. However, I am also a firm believer that change just for the sake of change is a complete waste of time. Not too many years ago, education became a political football, a platform to get a political candidate elected. The public got enamored with the idea that teachers should be held accountable and out came the teacher evaluation tests. Next came student accountability through achievement tests. Regurgitation of facts has been around as long as schools. I recall having to recite some dreadful poems that I can no longer even remember the titles. Then, there were the math formulas and the Periodic Table of the Elements that I no longer retain any knowledge. Book reports were not a pleasant chore but at least I can still recall a lot of the material that I read. However, the things I remember the most were the assignments that were not only a learning experience but fun as well. My seventh grade social studies teacher required us to clip a current event from a newspaper over the weekend and present it to class the following Monday. The best English classes I recall were when the teacher assigned specific parts of a play we were reading and we performed it in class. School plays, watching educational films, science experiments, holding elections for class officers and free reading time were all part of the education process. Most teachers gave us some time each week that we could devote to the arts like drawing whatever we wanted or listening to her read a great book. The fund hands-on lessons became knowledge without me realizing the effort I put into learning it. Oh sure, we took our share of aptitude and achievement tests but they certainly were not the most important items on the agenda. I am fortunate, I guess, I grew in a generation where the United States stood head and shoulders above the rest of the world when it came to student achievement. I am proud of my education and the teachers that worked so diligently to see that I did the best I could do in the classroom. However, the foundation started in the home. My mother read to me on a regular basis, particularly The Bible. I cut my reading teeth on comic books though my dad probably would have preferred that I selected reading material with a little more class. My next-door mom was a teacher. Her daughter and I read comic books almost constantly and on more than one occasion she caught some flack for permitting us to read such “outlandish” material. She responded saying, “They are reading and they are enjoying it. I am certainly not going to discourage it.” Many of my vacation adventures turned out to be great educational experiences. I spent more time in the American History Wax Museum on our trip to the Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tenn., than I did on any of the carnival rides. Building a robot was something I never got to do. Hey, times are changing and so are children's interests. But as adults let's not forget the most important lesson of life, let a kid be a kid and have fun. I assure you they can learn quite well at the same time. Playing and having may be the most valuable learning experience of all.

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