I remember a bumper sticker that was popular a while ago. It stated: “If you can read this, thank a teacher”. It made an excellent point; one that sometimes gets forgotten in all the budget debates and federal regulations. Teachers are amazing people. Teachers not only impact basic skills, they build the platform for students to teach themselves. They take raw material and turn it into a product that is not only good, but has the capability to continuously improve. What could be more important? Students look to teachers to help, guide, mentor, advise and correct, in addition to helping them understand and implement skills that are necessary for survival in today’s climate. They serve as role models in an increasingly complex society. Teachers show students how to be adults. Teachers lead by example, guide by opening doors, and stand offstage while the spotlight is on their pupils. They put in long hours, before and after school, preparing and prepping for lessons, searching for new ways to engage students, and participating in professional development geared at improving their teaching skills.
May is Teacher Appreciation Month. One pitfall of this career is the lack of appreciation that teachers sometimes feel. Often, when people do the same thing day after day, they get taken for granted. However, even though teachers do the same thing every day- teach- no two days are alike. Interactions with students and peers provide variety and an always-changing professional landscape. Every day provides a new opportunity to touch a life. Every lesson may impact a student’s career choice or influence a life decision. Teachers have suffered under the stereotype that they work little, with summers off and short work days. Anyone who is a teacher or who knows a teacher also knows that this is patently untrue. Teachers work before and after school, during the summer months, on weekends and all day long. In a constantly evolving society, teachers spend countless hours researching new technologies, planning new lessons, and incorporating new knowledge into their units. They read journals, research new methods, and meet in professional learning teams in order to best serve their students. Teachers are a dedicated group of individuals- committing themselves to improving our students, and society as a whole.
I would like to encourage the citizens of Marion County to pause for a moment and think about school. Schools today are not the same institutions that they were when we were students. Although I come from a family steeped in education and community service, as a student I was just as in awe of my teachers as my peers, and sometimes just as scared! Teachers were authority figures, and not to be taken lightly. As America has evolved into a more technology-based and social society, teachers have begun evolving right along. Teachers now tweet, use social media to teach students, and manipulate technology at increasingly advanced levels. They are now facilitators, guiding their students to discover knowledge, providing not only boundaries but encouragement, pointing towards the future with an appreciation of the past. Gone are the days of writing times tables and spelling words, here are the days of scientific calculators and Smartboards. Group projects, inquiry- based learning, and expanding their teaching styles and lesson choices to accommodate students’ differences are part of a teacher’s daily job description now.
So when you hear “thank a teacher”, do just that. They are not only the architects of our future; they are also the general contractors. Teachers have an awesome responsibility to their communities and to our society at large. They not only raise their children, they raise our society’s children. They impart cultural values, instruct us in our history, and provide the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful citizens of modern America. It’s not just a career, it’s a calling. I respect the work being done in our classrooms, and believe that we have some of the best teachers in America right here in Marion County. I am doing my best to support them, and I hope that you will too.
Families and Schools
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings. -Hodding Carter.”
Here at the Marion County School District, we believe that community partnerships are an essential part of a dynamic and sound education. The parents, grandparents and guardians of our students are a vital part of this community. These caretakers entrust us to guard and teach their children while they are away from home, and we take a solemn pledge to do so to the best of our ability. They are the ones who have begun the process of teaching and training young minds, of caring and concern for the children’s well-being, and of fostering a dream for the future to be realized.
Parents are the people who begin the process for the children. As the babies grow into toddlers, they begin to recognize family members and their place in the family. It is at this point that our parents begin to develop the root system that children need to give them a sense of security. With this sense of security comes the ability to grow, to expand and to begin the process of maturity. As they become aware of who they are, and where they come from, they begin to create a self-image that will stay with them as they progress through school. The self-image of our children goes a long way in determining their future. Both parents and teachers want to see our children succeed. It is imperative that our students see themselves as successful, motivated and full of potential. This will encourage them to seek dreams of the future and to accomplish their goals. Parents play a unique role in this process, as do grandparents and relatives. The roots that parents help establish- their support, love and sometimes gentle prodding- are necessary for our children to achieve the stability that they need for future growth. By knowing that they have the love and support of their family, students are enabled to pursue their dreams. Parents can help encourage this by taking an active interest in the school activities and lessons. They don’t need to be teachers- parents can provide much support just by being good listeners. Asking questions about the school day, what happened and what was learned, encourages children to talk about the material that they were exposed to, and this helps them to begin to remember and use this information. Asking questions also indicates interest and concern, which helps our students understand the importance of the work that they are doing. With a warm and caring environment, students will begin to grow and flourish.
Parents can also help by communicating with the schools. Let us know what you think. We have changed our instructional focus to foster more student-led learning that includes group work and project based lesson plans. We are emphasizing college and career ready skills. We are more than happy to speak with parents about this and what it means to our school family. And we would like parental feedback- what are the students saying about this and the Impact upon school life?
When a child is well-grounded in reality and supported by their families and schools, they begin to grow and soar. We are all in agreement about wanting to see our students prosper. Let’s continue to nurture and foster our dreams and goals, working together to make a difference for our students.
Smarter Standards, Smarter Testing
As of this school year, the Marion County School District began an implementation plan to begin working with the new Common Core State Standards adopted by the state of South Carolina. These standards were developed in English Language Arts and Mathematics in a cooperative fashion by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. So, even though the standards are meant for the whole country, they were actually developed by representatives from the states level. These standards were created with input from teachers, and are supported by the major teacher unions as well as by the National Parent Teacher Association. As of today, 45 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense’s Educational Activity and Guam have adopted these standards. New Science standards are also being worked on, but not by the same groups of people; the new science standards, currently referred to as the Next Generation Science standards, are being developed separately.
The goal of the CCSS is twofold: provide a consistent and clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, and to allow states across the nation to be on the same page when it comes to testing and accountability reporting. This is very important to schools across the country- when educational ranking are released, it is crucial that we are comparing ourselves to other states in the same things. We need to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. Only then can these ranking systems be actually fair and just. If teachers in Kansas are teaching the same thing as teachers in South Carolina, then it is fair to compare them, but not until then. The CCSS are also going to give us a very clear expectation of what students should be learning, as well as guidelines as to how they should be assessed. These new standards were created to reflect the real world, and are designed to give our students the knowledge and skills necessary for success; whether that student goes on to college or enters the work force.
Naturally, if we are adopting new standards, then it follows that we will have new assessments. Most of us are familiar with the PASS exams, given for students in grades 3-8. The ELA and Math tests will continue to be administered for one more year- the PASS writing test occurs March 19th and 20th- but new assessments for these subjects are currently in the development stage. PASS will continue to be given for Science and Social Studies. Britton’s Neck Elementary and McCormick Elementary have been chosen to pilot the Smarter Balanced assessments this year. Smarter Balanced is designed to assess students in the spirit of the new standards. The test is administered online, so students go to the computer lab to take them. This is more in keeping with career and college assessments, especially for careers, where most training takes place through computer and video tutorials. These tests are different from the paper and pencil assessments like PASS. Students are asked to do performance task; these tasks can be completed in other fashion than pen and paper, and therefore measure students’ creativity and critical thinking skills. In other words, this series of tests show the mastery of skills necessary for working in the 21st century.
What does that mean for our students? This translates into providing curriculum and instruction geared towards gaining skills in necessary areas such as presentation, writing, oral literacy, problem solving, and creative thinking. These are skills that have been identified by major corporations as necessary for successful employment. They are, not so coincidentally, skills that provide college success as well. This means that, as we implement these new standards and assess them more efficiently, we are better preparing our students for the future. And isn’t that the goal of all educators?
School Security in an Unsecure World
In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive. –