During the years 1985-1986, I wrote a column titled "Dear Teacher" that appeared in The Bethlehem Globe Times, a local daily newspaper in Bethlehem, PA. This was one of three daily newspapers in the Lehigh Valley and the one I had read for my whole reading life, so it was quite a thrill to see myself in print there. Shortly after I stopped writing the column, the newspaper went out of business. (Incidentally, this was not my fault!) I enjoyed the weekly discipline of writing and polishing 750 words a week, though it was a little pressure since I was teaching full-time and had the usual responsibilities of a parent and wife and lived in the same area as relatives with all the attendant expectations of extended family.

I am including a few of my favorite columns here.

The "Dear Teacher" columns below are as follows:
1.  The rewards of teaching are subtle and enduring (June, 1985)
2.  Sometimes simple answers are the hardest (Feb. 12, 1986)
3.  If you can read this column, give thanks to a teacher (April 9, 1986)
4.  "Penny wise and pound foolish" no way to educate (June 4, 1986)
5.  The world is a better place for her having been here (Oct. 1, 1986)
6.  Popularity is no yardstick by which to judge teachers (Sept. 25, 1985)
7.  A wish for holiday smells and happy memories (Dec. 24, 1985)
8.  Consider these resolutions for New Year's (Dec. 31, 1985)


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1.  The rewards of teaching are subtle and enduring

    Holding a finished piece of pottery you made can give you enormous satisfaction.  You took clay and either shaped it by hand or used a potter's wheel.  You chose the colors of the glaze.  You added the design.  When you were done, you had a product in your hand.  Given the same amount of time and a little luck, you know that you can use the skills you learned to create another piece.
    Whether you build a house or remove a gall bladder, in a relatively short time, you receive the satisfaction of seeing the completion of your efforts in a tangible form.  The house provides shelter and comfort for a family.  The ill person feels much better without the diseased gall bladder.  
    Some professions are not like that, and teaching is one of them.  Students come to a classroom having experienced many influences--other children, parents, relatives, neighbors, other teachers, and a cast of thousands on television.  During their stay in a particular classroom, the teacher hopes to do some fine tuning of what the student already knows, to polish a few rough spots and add some new insight and discipline.
    When the student leaves that classroom, he or she is not a competed product.  Even as the teacher is waving goodbye on the last day of school, there is the disquieting thought, "If only we had had more time."  It is not easy to share a year in a child's growth and then release that child, knowing that more work needs to be done.  Come September, new children fill those seats and there is a fleeting, sinking sensation that you have not gotten anywhere, but must begin the shaping process again.
    There is an underlying consolation that time was well-spent while the student was in the classroom.  Growth across that year, academically, socially and physically, can be observed.  Still there is not the exhilaration of starting and completing a product.  Teachers have to recognize themselves as a part of a process which they sincerely hope will lead to the formation of a literate, caring, contributing member of society.
    While we are with them and after they leave us, students need to know that we care not only about our part in their growth but also about the adult they will become.  Teachers eagerly share news of the successes of former students.  They are genuinely delighted to know what has become of Johnny Shy and Susie Quiet.  Their triumphs are ours, too.
    There are shared sorrows as well when former students suffer illness or misfortune.  We ask ourselves what more we could have done to help.  We have, for a time, shared in the person's growth, and, therefore, a bit of us goes along with the student and a bit of the student stays with us.
    Perhaps the greatest joys are hearing that Barry Belligerent and Dora Deceitful have learned the discipline and values necessary to channel their energies into positive contributions.  Maybe our insistence on civil behavior and our adherence to academic standards may have helped.
    The numerous diligent students make the job possible, but we sometimes forget to adequately praise them for their accomplishments, knowing that they will be fine.  The children who drive us a little crazy make some days very long.  But years later, to hear that the troubled student, the angry student, the disinterested student has found his place in the world is wonderful news, renewing our hope and belief that education and time can make a difference.
    Teaching is rewarded weekly in the classroom when individual students leap academic hurdles and overcome social obstacles.  As years add themselves to years, the seasoned teacher gets the reward of seeing students grow into adults.  It takes time, much longer than the making of a vase or the removal of a gall bladder.
    No one teacher can step forward and take credit for the final product, but all of the teachers in the shadow of that student silently support that child's progress and cheer that child's victories.  It is a sustaining part of the teaching profession, and students need to know that they have this network of people in their lives quietly wishing them well.
    It has been another rewarding year in the teaching profession.  As I conclude our relationship for this school year, I hope you have had a worthwhile year, too.  May your summer hold many good books, ideas and adventures you can share with someone else. 
 
 
2.  Sometimes simple answers are the hardest

    You have a pain in your stomach that comes and goes.  You decide to go to a doctor.  You are greeted by a receptionist who takes a routine health history and asks what your problem is.  She escorts you to a room commenting that this is where other people with stomach problems are waiting.  You go inside to find 25-35 other people expecting the doctor.  When he arrives, he hurriedly looks over the medical histories and out across the sea of pained faces.  Clearing his throat, he addresses the people, "I see from your records that you all have similar stomach problems.  I want you all to go on this diet and to take this medication.  If you get no relief, come back and we will place you in a more intensive stomach grouping.  Now I must move on to the nose and throat room.
    Your car is sputtering and dies out when you try to start on a slight grade.   You take it to the repair shop and the mechanic says, "I see you report that the car sputters and dies on slight grades."  Park it with that group to your right.  There you find 25-35 cars with their owners waiting.  Upon inquiry, you learn that their cars have similar problems, but some have coughs instead of sputters and some only start when the temperature is above 32 degrees.  Soon a mechanic addresses the group, "These cars have similar problems.  We will adjust the carburetor and align the wheels.  Your cars will be ready at five."
    If you would receive this kind of treatment in a doctor's office about your valuable health  or from a mechanic about your sole means of transportation, you would be screaming bloody murder.  After all, your stomach is special and you expect it to receive the undivided attention of a trained professional.  While your car is not as important as your health, you want that problem solved so that you can depend on your car to serve you well.
    The answers seem simple enough.  The doctor should see you alone and find out all about your problem so that you can feel better and stop worrying.  The mechanic should work on one car at a time and investigate all the possible causes of its problem.
    You have a child you love.  It is time for that child to receive an education.  The world is complex and you want that child to prepared to live happily.  You take your child to elementary school and you are directed to a room where there are 25-35 other children and one teacher.
    After elementary school, you take your child to secondary school.  There you are directed to place your child in a room with 25-35 other children and teacher A.  After 45 minutes, you are told to move your child to another room for another subject with teacher B.  This pattern  continues for a full day with your child meeting eighth teachers.  Each teacher meets with no less than five classes, about 100-150 children  per day.
    If your child does well under these circumstances, you may want to send that child on to college.   One of the criteria for choosing a college may may well be class size.   Now, the number of students in a class will matter.  Why hasn't it mattered before?  And what about those children who have dropped out along the way or who have finished school with a minimum of skills?
    If I sound angry, I am.  time magazine reports about new tutorial centers for profit which boast of pupil-to-teacher ratios of no more than three to one.  One of the vice presidents of a center states that they are doing all the things public schools would do if they could afford it.  For $900 to $2600, you can give your child an advantage over his classmates who cannot afford the after-school center.
    I have had my fill of studies and queries and mystified people who can't understand what needs to be done to improve public education.  There is no big mystery.  We don't have to spend thousands on task forces.  Start with a dedicated, well-educated staff, limit their work load so they can prepare, revise, correct and still have a life after hours, and reduce class size to 15-20.  With reduced enrollments over the past years, we have space to permit more, but smaller, classes.  Instead we have closed buildings.  Teachers have lost jobs and class size has remained high; in some cases it has risen.
    If it is better education you want, consider your last visit to the doctor or to a mechanic.  Your stomach or your car received undivided attention and you gulped and paid your bill.  Why would you want anything different for the children of the community when they skip off to school? 

 
 
3.  If you can read this column, give thanks to a teacher

    I've been paging through a small publication put out by the National Council of Teachers of English titled "A Celebration of Teachers."  In it, many people whom we would recognize as having successful careers take the time to tell the story of an encounter with a teacher who said something, did something, or represented something which made a significant difference in their lives.  More than the thanks expressed, the love which flowed from teacher to student and, now, from student back to teacher is breathtaking.
    Humorist Erma Bombeck speaks of a stern teacher who managed to instill basic communication skills and pride.  Art Buchwald was lucky enough to have a teacher who saw behind his class clown antics and recognized some talent which she encouraged.
    Norman Cousins speaks of a teacher who was in love with books and shared her love with her classes.  Norman Vincent Peale tells of a professor who inspired his students to be masters of English.
    Politicians like Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter took the time to remember teachers who made a difference for them.  Edwin Newman with CBS News and authors like Bernard Malamud and Peter DeVries, all of whom earn their livings by writing, found encouragement from teachers which helped to shape their careers.
    The pamphlet is laced with phrases like "she had great dignity and status in the community;" "a teacher took my adolescent dream seriously;" "he inspired me to read for pleasure;" "Mr. Hamill had led me to a truth;" "unyielding in their standards, despairing of sloth and mediocrity, and incorruptible;" and "She was a vibrant example of the fact that one does not teach a subject, one teaches a child."  I have read these tributes several times.  Each time I find them ringing with hope for teachers and students.
    Of course, this publication was designed specifically for English teachers, but many other teachers have made important contributions not only to people who became famous, but also to those who went on to have more quality in their lives because a teacher said or did or represented something to them in their youth.
    When I have a hard day at school, I sometimes reflect on those teachers who have molded me.  Some were stern and unbending, teaching me the need to set standards and goals.  Others had senses of humor needed to get through the ridiculous parts of any job.  Many loved what they did and shared their enthusiasm.  Most cared about each student as a person.  Each year, I try to add these strengths to my own teaching.
    Several names jump to mind when I think of my teachers.  The one most on my mind when I think of fine teachers is William Hissam, my science teacher when I was a student at Northeast Junior High School.  He was a blend of many fine qualities.  He had a ready smile for all of us.  He talked and joked easily with students.  He enjoyed his subject and made science interesting and fun.  Years after junior high school, meeting him by chance around town, he always remembered me and was genuinely interested in where I was and what I was doing. 
    Mr. Hissam.  A fine human being.  When he died this past year, I regretted not telling him more how much he influenced me.  Others probably keep his memory alive for similar reasons.
    How about you?  Is there a teacher who made a difference for you?  Would you like a chance to publicly thank that teacher?  Here's you chance.  June 1 is the beginning of Teacher Thank You Week.  If you write now so the letters can be published near that week, you will have a chance to say those words of gratitude you may have been thinking all these years.  It is never too late to say thank you.  In the words of one of the writers, William Goldman, "I wish I'd told him then.  I didn't.  But wherever he is, whatever world he presently inhabits, I'm telling him now."
    
    Besides ending the column for the summer on a positive note, I know it will give a boost to all those teachers who leave the classroom in June tired and, perhaps, discouraged.  Tell me who the teacher is, what school you attended, and how he or she made a difference for you.  Let me know if you want your name included or if you would prefer to have your name withheld.  Your responses can make a difference.
 


 
 
4.  "Penny wise and pound foolish" no way to educate

    With the sound of running feet and shouts of joy, the children explode into their much desired summer vacation.  I have a few more days of meetings, and then I too will realize that I have weeks of unscheduled time before me.  I leave, however, toting plants, books, and notebooks.  I do not run.  Now that the last surge of determination has gotten me through the final, busy weeks of school, I begin to realize how weary I am.  It is at this ebb of energy that I reflect on the year and weigh out the advantages and disadvantages, the highs and lows, the pros and cons of the profession I have chosen
    On the negative side, I have watched governments cut budgets which will hurt education, while report after report and citizen after citizen call for a need for better education.  I am disturbed locally by possible cuts which will adversely affect my own children  --  the ones who will need to make complex decisions in their, and our, futures.  Old cliches come to mind, like "Penny wise and pound foolish."
    I am concerned about critics of education who spout airy theories and decide issues like staffing needs,computer education, vocational education, all-day kindergarten, evening school, and bi-lingual education without consulting the  teachers who actually carry out these programs and without stopping into a classroom to see for themselves.  Unless a person has stood in front of a class and tried to teach, it must be  difficult to have a true picture of what is needed.  Consulting the teachers involved in these programs would seem logical.
    When people complain loudly and publicly about increased taxes, I wonder where they were educated and how those costs were met?  It is, after all, the responsibility of a society to educate its young for the benefit and insurance of its own successful continuation.  The better job we do, the better our future will be.  Compare teachers' salaries to professional athletes and entertainers, not to mention other professions, and our values as a society begin to come into focus.  Do we put our money where our mouths are?
    In the course of a day, most teachers are called on to do clerical work, monitor lunchrooms, and police lavatories.  Businesses would never think of misusing the time of its professional staff when secretaries, aids, and security people are better trained for these tasks and could be paid accordingly.  Yet teachers are expected to manage without the support staff which many business and professional people take for granted.
    This is a profession in which many people give time, energy, and care above and beyond the call of duty, leaving little for building a public image.  Consequently, the public knows little about the good work that  goes on daily in thousands of schools across the country, basing their judgements instead on news stories featuring teachers' strikes, drug problems in the schools and assorted incompetencies.
    A teacher in the 80's faces many obstacles.  Children are under stress because of shifting family lifestyles.  Classroom atmosphere and safety are uncertain because of disrespectful attitudes, sometimes aggravated by the availability of drugs.  The community further erodes teacher respect and authority by expressing low esteem for the profession.
    Why, then, do people continue teaching?  The answer is one word:  children.  Most teacher like kids, care about kids, and delight in their progress.
    When I add up the pros of the year, it always begins and ends with individual memories of students.  To help students move from one level of understanding to another, to watch their sense of accomplishment, to have them share ideas, to hear their laughter in the halls, to know that I made a difference, these are the satisfactions which more balance the scales.
    When I catch up on my rest, I will do what most teachers do.  I'll clean some closets, organize the basement, and spend time with my family.  Professionally, I'll read several books, do some writing, restructure some teaching units to make them work even better, and I'll travel, always keeping an eye out for an idea or experience that will enrich my teaching when I return to the classroom.
    When school resumes in the fall, I'll be there, just as most other teachers will, because I enjoy the subject I teach and the children I reach.  I believe education can open doors, solve problems, and carry hope.  The bottom line for anyone involved with education must be what is best for the total development of the children because that is what is best for all of us.



 
 
5.  The world is a better place for her having been here

I was happy to hear again from a person who had written in response to Teacher Thank-You Week.  That column, which appeared in the spring, encouraged readers to write to thank a teacher who had made a difference in their lives.  This person wrote about Florence Fluck who taught at the Tohickon School in Quakertown.  She would have been 92 this October.  
    Because Carl Smith wrote to thank her through this column, he was reunited with another boy from the Quakertown orphanage whom he had not seen  in 45 years.  After exchanging news, they made plans to get together and vist their teacher.
    I had asked Smith to keep me informed about the outcome of this fascinating reunion and I heard from him in August.  He wrote that he and his friend did visit Mrs. Fluck in the Quakertown Hospital in June.  He learned that she had been a past president of the Richland (One Room School) Historical Society and became a gifted artist after her retirement.
    Sadly, Florence Fluck died in early August.  Smith noted that he met two other people at the viewing who were in the children's home with him and many people whom had grown up with in Sunday school and church.
    His final words about this teacher are a fitting tribute:  She led a fruitful life, touched many lives, and the world is a better place for her having been here.  So is my life better having touched her."
    Smith also told me of an annual reunion held in Richlandtown at the Shelly School, home of the Richland (One Room School) Historical Society each fall.  He and his friend were planning to attend this year. 
    I couldn't resist the desire to meet this caring man and his friend as well as to learn more about Mrs. Fluck.  What I found out was delightful.
    The Society was organized "for the purpose of preserving a one-room schoolhouse as a symbol of all the country schools and the teachers who taught in them." Nine of these schools were located in the township of Richland which surrounds Quakertown borough:  Shelly School, Tohickon, Rocky Ridge School, Central School, Scholl School, Shaw's School, California, Kauffman's School, and Wimmer's School.  Each of these one-room schools has a fascinating history, reflected in the exhibits on display at Shelly School, which is furnished as a one-room school would have been.
    My younger daughter came with me on that pleasant September day.  She had great fun exploring the idea of learning in such a school where each of the eight rows of chairs represented a grade.  She was fascinated by the mental picture of a teacher instructing one row at a time while the other children did seat work until the teacher would progress to their row.
    Using a slate as a rough draft to preserve valuable paper was also novel since she knows that slate is now more expensive than paper.  The water pump which actually worked was also a treat for this modern child.  The two-seater outhouse was beyond comment.
    While the building was of special interest, the memory of the children and the teachers who filled these schools is even more precious.  Pictures capture the faces of some of the classes, and the imprint made by the teachers is recorded in the written records, as well as on the faces of the children in the pictures.
    Florence Fluck was one of those teachers.  She taught in more than one of the one-room schools, but it is at Tohickon where she seems to have been treasured the most.  Some of her former students were at the reunion and spoke fondly of her.  In later years, they told me, her students faithfully kept in touch with her.
    Perhaps the most rewarding find of the day was a document which Mrs. Fluck had written.  In it she speaks of humble beginnings and her eventual opportunity to attend the state normal school, something she did not originally think she would be able to afford.  Her desire to be a teacher burned so strong, you see, because she had had a good teacher in her childhood whom she admired.
    One room school houses are a thing of the past, but dedicated teachers and eager students can still be found in any school in the country.  Thanks to the Richland Historical Society for preserving an interesting time in the history of education and for reminding us of the importance of the teachers who served so well in those schools.

 
 
6.  Popularity is no yardstick by which to judge teachers

    Each fall, we have come to expect the Miss America Pageant with its glamorous, talented young women.  A controversial event, to some it seems like a meat show, while others see it as the showcase for American values.  Whatever your view, none of us can overlook that popularity is the key to a successful contestant.  
    Indeed, we have many areas in our society where popularity is held up as a desirable trait.  When it comes to teaching, however, neither students, parents, nor teachers should get caught in the popularity trap.
    A teacher does not teach to be popular, though it is tempting to be liked.  When standards become eroded in the pursuit of popularity, it is time to take a look at priorities.  Excellent subject teachers may be popular, but students also like teachers who give little homework, demand little in class, tell good jokes, show many movies unrelated to the topic, or speak to them in the same slang students use.
    Determining which teacher is a good teacher is difficult since there are no fool-proof measures on which to base that judgment.  Working with children does not provide an immediate product.  It takes years of education, home training, social interaction, and mental readiness for children to appear finished.  Teaching is, therefore, an art with many artists contributing to the masterpiece.  Including one or two less able artists or less personable artists along the way may make little difference to the final results.  Obviously, we would all like each artist to be the best, but no profession is composed of only the best.
    Another obstacle to determining who is the best is that other factors may interfere with children's learning.  Problems at home, difficulty with peers, or slower maturity can slow academic development.  It is to be hoped that teachers will take students farther along the road each is traveling.  This, however, cannot be measured on any standardized test when we are dealing with the development of a whole person.
    Parents, too, have difficulty evaluating teachers except through comments their children make or comments from other parents who have discovered a year or two down the road that such-and-such a teacher gave their children a good foundation.  Looking back on your own schooling, you may remember a few teachers whom you did not like at the time, but who insisted on high standards of performance from you and ran classes which demanded your attention.
    Once in a while, teachers receive a note or a call to thank them years after having had a student.  This feedback is among the most rewarding parts of teaching.  It isn't always easy being firm, so it is nice to know that your caring, in the form of maintaining a professional level of instruction, is appreciated.  
    Sometimes a teacher will struggle with a student continuously and often unpleasantly for a whole year only to end the year feeling as though the battle has been lost and this person missed your intention and hates you.  This child will most likely be one of those who gained from the experience and will seek out this teacher in years to come.  The struggle doesn't make the teacher popular, but it does make that teacher effective.
    Often the effectiveness of teachers cannot be judged until years later.  Then students can evaluate their learning experiences based on the goals they have been able to achieve and by what deficiencies they have found themselves limited.  It would be too much to expect that judgment on teachers could be postponed for several years, but their popularity might then be determined by different criteria.
    If popularity is a poor basis by which to judge teachers, how are good teachers to be identified?  School districts need to choose the best candidates to fill positions.  Choose people who have excelled in their subject area.  Hire experienced teachers who have recommendations from previous schools.  Assign teachers to teach what they have been trained to teach.
    Give teaching assignments or changes in assignments weeks, if not months, before the teacher is to start.  Many teachers have been frustrated by assignments given only a few days before a new year or new opening was scheduled to begin.  These people genuinely wanted to prepare on their own time, but could not because decisions were postponed.
    The community must decide that it is to the benefit of society for its young people to be well-educated and support the schools in attitude as well as in legislation.  Teachers need the respect and support of the home, the community, and the administration, so that they can do the best job for each child:  the job most of them want to do.

 
 
7.  A wish for holiday smells and happy memories

    The classroom is unnaturally quiet.  After weeks of excitement, the students have gone for their Christmas vacation.  They have worked hard since September, and they have left with a sense of relief as well as with holiday anticipation.  They are glad to be free of homework, tests, schedules, deadlines, and teachers.    As I watched them go and as I think of them now, I know their learning will continue out there in the "real" world even if they are not aware that education is a part of daily living.  The news media will continue to deliver the daily tragedies and injustices into their living rooms, and the entertainment media will show them life as it really isn't. 
    For a moment, I wonder what I would wish for each of them.  I only need to search my memory for a short time to know the answer.  In a flash, I am a child again, counting up the things that really matter as I lie squeezed behind the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches of colored lights.  I am the same girl who each year cut off a piece of the Christmas tree and hid it in a cool spot behind the rain gutter on the north side of the house and returned to savor its piney scent and relive the joy and excitement of Christmas deep into summer.  I wish my students holiday smells linked with happy memories that will remain with them through the years long after the batteries have run down on their Walkmans and their computers have become obsolete.
    The laughter and jokes we shared in those growing years return.  I remember our Christmas trees from city lots which would be improved when my dad sawed off too-bounteous branches from one place and taped them into drilled holes in the bare spots.  Later, in my teen years, this same man dressed as Santa and fussed over his white, cotton eyebrows which had to be just so when he took out a sack of goodies to poorer parts of town.  I remember Mom, his partner, Mrs. Claus, who still reaches out to others in the community.  I still have the rag doll of my dreams which she made for one of those Christmases.  I wish my students fun and laughter shared with adults they admire.
    The accounts of community outpouring to neighbors in need which appear in the media are part of Christmas memory.  The service agencies, churches, and individuals who share themselves to ease the lives of others receive more coverage at this time.  I wish that my students might see these acts and have an opportunity to contribute themselves.
    The recollection of touch stretches across memory.  My grandfather ice skated into his sixties.  I remember his strong hands as he guided me around the ice on Echo Lake near Bangor.  When he gripped both of my hands, my folding ankles perked up and the ice was smoother.  I remember my dad's rough hands when I would run down the street to meet him on his way home from the bus stop.  I would carry his lunch kettle and hold his hand and life was safe.  I remember softer hands and busy hands.  My grandmother made Christmas gifts each year for her children and grandchildren numbering in the 50's.  My mother's cool hands soothed fevered brows and fitted countless dresses for me.  Those hands keep right on making human magic.  I wish my students the touch of reassuring hands.
    I remember brothers who helped keep holiday secrets and who helped a younger sister when she took on projects she couldn't finish.  One was a rug I was trying to make for my mother by working yarn on a spool with four nails hammered into it.  As Christmas approached, I worked furiously but the clock was ticking and my fingers grew sore.  There was my brother with fresh fingers to help.  I wish my students loving siblings.
    Teachers who knew the value of holidays, neighbors who went about being decent people, and friends who have remained so across miles and years are all part of memory.  I wish these for my students, too.
    Do I wish them stereos and skis and the latest fashions?  Not really.  When the years mellow their presents into memories, I would like them to have what is important--love of family, respect for humankind, and respect for self, so that someday they can look back and count their blessings.
    I've come up with some of what I want for my students and at the same time I've managed to enjoy some pleasurable memories and reaffirm my priorities.  Now I can go home and enjoy Christmas with my family.  Whether Christmas is a religious time, a cultural event, or a friendly tradition your neighbors keep, I hope you will pause in this special season to remember the things that count and to share them with the children you meet.

 
 
8.  Consider these resolutions for New Year's

    We have had our fill of turkey, the presents have been opened, and the excitement has diminished.  We have warmed ourselves beside the fire of logs and memories.  Even in those moments of contentment and before the needles have begun to fall from the tree, we began to feel the stirrings of a desire to start again--bigger and better in the new year.  1985 is over and we cannot erase mistakes, decide to tackle missed opportunities, or take back hasty words.  The good news is that we have a brand new year with 365 opportunities to do better.    
    New Year's celebrations usually include an element of self-forgiveness coupled with resolutions.  We choose to make a commitment to change for the better.  That sounds like a healthy way to start a new year.  On that positive note, I submit a limited menu of suggestions for the new year.  If on or two appeal to you, you are welcome to take them as your own for 1986, providing you give them a good home with lots of attention.  

    For Students:
    1.  Do your homework carefully every day and hand it in on time.
    2.  Spend five to 10 minutes a day per subject reviewing.  No subject can be learned and retained the night before a test.
    3.  Treat others of any age with respect and compassion.  All people have worth and deserve to be treated so.
    4.  Share in some household responsibilities.  Being a part of a family carries with it joys and responsibilities just as the rest of life will.
    5.  Look beyond yourself and the people you love to the larger world.  Pick up a piece of litter, write a letter of concern, volunteer some hours to help people less fortunate.
    6.  Be of good cheer.  The world needs your special contribution.

    For Parents:
    1. Model the kind of behavior you want your children to have.  If you swear, yell or try to solve problems by violence, so will your children.  If you listen to what your children are saying, they will learn to listen.  You are your children's best teacher.
    2.  Practice patience.  Children need time and space to learn all they need to know.
    3.  Encourage conversation with your children.  They need to know that they have a safe place and a trusted person to try out ideas and test values.
    4.  Build trust by keeping promises and by respecting your children's dignity.  Don't tell information entrusted to you or reveal embarrassing mistakes your children may make.
   
    For Teachers:
    1.  Maintain high, but achievable standards.
    2.  Assign homework of quality, not quantity.
    3.  Use every minute of class time.  Remember how you felt last June when you ran out of time.
    4.   Provide discipline which is consistent and fair.
    5.  Teach students as well as subject contents.  Sometimes what we say to students as people will matter more in building confidence and self-worth than any particular lesson.
    6.  Say more words of encouragement. Most students thrive on approval.

    For Administrators:
    1.  The most important part of any school is what happens in the classroom.  Support and encourage the teaching staff.
    2.  Help new teachers and teachers who are having some difficulty by working with them to overcome the problem.
    3.  While doing the juggling act required of administrators, don't let budget be the primary concern in staffing.  Students deserve the best trained and most experienced teachers who apply.
    4.  Consult classroom teachers, as well as department heads and curriculum specialists:  teachers are professional educators.
    5.  Provide the opportunity for teachers to continue studying.
    6.  If a teacher is going to be reassigned, give several weeks notice so that the teacher can prepare adequately for the requirements of a new grade level.

    For the Community:
    1.   Look for the good things going on in education.  There are many happening quietly each day in individual classrooms across the country.
    2.  Offer some time to the schools.  Most schools have tutor programs or libraries which need help.
    3.  When you receive your school taxes, ask yourself where our society would be without educated people?
    4.  Question politicians who commission reports on the state of education and send a teacher into space, but cut funding important to education.
    5.  Even if your children are grown or if you have never had children, consider that all children belong to the society in which they live.  Remember that your education was supported by others who preceded you.

    Happy New Year! 

  WrittenReflections.com