Thursday, August 9, 2007
back to school
By SUE WATSON
The entire staff of the Marshall County School District kicked off the new year at Byhalia High School last week with a breakfast, words from superintendent Don Randolph, a review of the schools’ mission by Jerry Moore and a fine motivational speech by Janie Walters.
Moore asked for top effort from all employees.
“Everything we do this year is critical,” Moore said to staff, new and those back for another year. “We’ve got to change the way we teach or it’s going to hurt our kids.”
He said education is about public service and public trust.
“The public trusts us and pays us to teach their kids,” he said. “We are not public officials but we are public servants.”
Moore made some points about the role of educators and then provided some examples of how students from impoverished environments can be helped to excel.
“Students learn by doing vocationally rich, literacy rich (curricula) in strong problem solving environments,” he said. “You have to foster that learning.”
Moore said tens of thousands of school districts around the nation have poverty rates similar to Mississippi and Marshall County.
“And some of them are performing better than we are,” he said. “Your job this year is to make your children think.”
Studies have shown that two factors improved performance in high poverty schools, Moore said, citing studies by the Bill Gates Foundation.
“Teachers got on board and used performance-based methods of instruction despite their students’ poverty and the staff did not complain and stir up trouble in the school district and community,” he said.
“We’ve got a problem with that, that needs to stop. You’ve got a lot of hard work to do without complaining, if you expect to work in a high poverty school district like Marshall County. You have to change.”
Those teachers who push the Accelerated Reader (AR) program have the highest success scores in reading, he said.
“I don’t want them to struggle when they read,” Moore said. “They hate it when they struggle.”
Moore said teachers must help each other achieve the state assessment objectives and ACT objectives by teaching across the curriculum.
The job of principals, he said, is to “make things happen in the classroom.”
“Everybody’s accountable,” Moore said.
Drawing from how the military trains non-graduates in three months to operate sophisticated equipment like missile launchers, Moore said those personnel were once “a child we said at one time could not learn.”
He said money is not the solution to the education problem or economic worries about jobs going overseas.
“We cannot let other countries continue to do our work for us because we refuse to educate our children properly,” Moore said. “Everybody cannot sit at home. Thousands of schools have demonstrated that students in poverty can learn.”
He added that none of the teachers in the school district come from families “loaded with money” but they do consider themselves successful.
“Background or not, not enough money is just an excuse,” he said.
Moore said educators have to address the “culture of dropping out.”
“It’s what the family does and it is a culture that has to stop,” he said.
He traced causes of dropping out to the family not being able to read well.
“Failure has everything to do with the teaching corps,” he said. “Performance-based teaching leads to relationships which leads to respect. If students’ don’t respect you, they will not learn for you.”
Moore said teachers need to move away from the lecture method of teaching to showing students how what they are studying is connected to their lives.
“Not our lives,” he stressed.
The culture of schools must change from culture of dropout houses to houses of learning, he said.
“Why would students work hard for us if they see we don’t work together for them?” he asked. “So we have a lot of work to do with purpose and without complaining.
“If every teacher provides above average teaching, the achievement gap will close completely in six years.”
Walters followed Moore with the topic “The Garbage Truck Comes on Tuesdays and Fridays.”
Every teacher starts the year with good intentions, she said.
“But good intentions will not get us through May. The best intentions can get shot out from under us the first day.”
Walters urged teachers to take their mental and emotional garbage out with the trash after sharing a personal anecdote about a time when she and her husband’s mental and emotional garbage had them not speaking.
It was a day over the garbage can when the Walters decided to make a quality decision to leave their mental and emotional garbage on the curb, she said.
By learning how to make a quality decision to drop it, Walters told of how her relationship with her husband improved through their mutual agreement to drop their disagreements. She then transferred that learning to other aspects of her life including the classroom.
When we make a quality decision, we can actually drop negativity and get on with a positive life, she said.
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