I keep hearing about our educational system, how broken it is. It’s been a long time since I had anything to do with schools, so I don’t really know. I hear that kids aren’t learning. Teachers aren’t teaching. Charter schools and voucher programs. Stuff I don’t know anything at all about. Maybe they’re right about the system being broken. Maybe they’re right about the kids not learning and maybe this charter and voucher stuff is all right. I have my doubts about that, but I don’t really know.

When I was a kid, times were tough just as they are today. I’m talking about the ’30s, the Great Depression, although I don’t know what was so great about it.

I attended at least four grammar schools.

In one of the very first, when I was maybe six, I remember my teacher keeping me and another kid after class to practice reading from flash cards she showed us. I’m pretty sure she didn’t get paid overtime to do that. I think she just cared.

My next experience was the time my mom managed to get me a new pair of shoes. Brand new, mind you and I went out to play in the snow and got them soaking wet. We had a little wood-burning stove which also helped warm the house. At bedtime my mother placed the shoes in the oven to dry out. She left the door open of course, but somehow the door got closed and by morning my shoes were a crispy black and shriveled mess. I couldn’t go out to school through the snow. Of course we had no phone (that would come years later), so a few days later my teacher dropped by to see why I hadn’t been attending school.

My mother explained the shoe incident to her, so without wasting time, this teacher took me down to a shoe store and bought me a brand new pair of shoes so I could get up and go to school.  She wasn’t being paid to come to my house or take me to the store and she certainly wasn’t being reimbursed for taking money out of her own pocket to buy shoes so I could get back to school. And then, just as now, her salary couldn’t have been much more than a stipend. But she cared.

In high school one teacher allowed me to stay after class with her to beef up for an exam so I could get on with my life. I’m sure she didn’t get paid for that. I think she just cared.

Luckily perhaps, I never had a teacher who abused me in any way. A couple, Mr. Moe and Mr. Hale did spank me and some other kids a couple of times with a paddle. They, showing wisdom bought through experience, even made us remove the padding from our back pockets. I think our punishment was five swats. The real punishment was waiting all day with all the class covertly looking at us,  knowing what was going to happen after school. Did I go home and complain to my parents? Are you crazy? I had it coming and I knew it. And I wouldn’t expect any sympathy from my parents. These teachers didn’t get paid overtime to paddle us, and they punishment didn’t really hurt much more than our pride. I think these whole incidents came out of caring, caring about us growing up to be decent law-abiding citizens, rather than crude bullies. A taste of our own medicine you might say.

I think teachers today are just as dedicated as they were sixty or so years ago. The system may be broken, but don’t tell me the teachers are. Times are tough, sure, their salaries are low, sure, and on top of that, from what I understand, they’re fighting a broken system.

I’m pretty certain no one goes into the teaching profession for the big bucks. Being a teacher takes a lot of dedication and a lot of patience; a lot of caring.

I’ve never spoken to a teacher that I felt didn’t really care about his/her students. You can just tell where their heart lies.

Bad apples? We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t produce a few bad apples. It happens. But fortunately, they are in a distinct minority, and I feel very sorry for any hapless student who gets stuck with one.

Kids today are just as smart as they were sixty years ago. Teachers are just as dedicated as they were sixty years ago. So we have to get the hell out of their way and let the teachers do what they’re supposed to do. That’s my opinion.


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