Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. As an American, there is nothing better than sitting down with family and friends and feasting on obese, genetically modified fowl, loading up on carbs, and then laying back on the couch in a food stupor while watching the Detroit Lions get defeated again on the gridiron on a ridiculously-sized flat screen TV.
In this season of thanksgiving, I would also like to thank the community, as your commitment to the Watertown-Mayer School District continues to be vital to helping us achieve our goal of providing a positive, safe, and challenging education for all of our students. In return, the WM School District is committed to build your trust in our educational system as we move our school to become a 21st Century Learning Center.
The strength of this school district is the backbone of our community. But what about our students, are they thankful for our school? One might wonder if children could possibly be thankful for school. After all, we hear a great deal of grumbling and griping about school from the children, and when they are in school, some students often do only enough work to get by.
By recent newspapers and TV coverage, it would seem that most of the children in this country really do not like school in spite of the fact that teachers go out of their way to try to make it pleasant while doing an outstanding job at teaching the fundamentals. I read an article recently that really made me stop and think about student appreciation of schools. I thought I would address some of the points from that story.
Recently, a couple of things have been reported in the news that would indicate that it is, indeed, possible for children to be thankful for school. When a 14-year old girl in Pakistan was shot in the head for insisting that girls had a right to obtain schooling, we saw an example of a person who undoubtedly would have been very thankful for the opportunity to learn.
More recently, it was reported that children in the Northeast were truly glad to be back in school after experiencing Hurricane Sandy. Pictures were shown of a crowded situation where the children from a school that had been demolished had been taken in by another school. The students were very thankful to be back in school.
Is it true that we appreciate most the things that are hardest to get? When we earn something, does it mean more to us? When school is forced on children, they resent it. When they can’t have it, they want it. Millions of dollars are spent on our education system in America each year, yet the children in many cases don’t seem to be excited about what they need to learn. When children really want to learn, they will learn whether they are in a crowded school with poor facilities or a fancy modern school with every bell and whistle. An appreciative, thankful attitude by our students would do more to improve our country’s educational system than any amount of money, new programs, or better educated teachers.
These things are all very important in their own right, but the child’s attitude is the most important of all. So what can be done to help children be thankful for the opportunity to be educated? It is obvious that many of the things that schools do to educate children do not work. What works is when our students are successful! When children do well, they have a true sense of accomplishment that motivates them to try again.
In addition, when parents pattern appreciation for education in their homes, students are more successful in school. When parents run down the schools, teachers and coaches in their conversation with their children, how can we expect the children to think any differently? When parents model appreciation of our schools, children will come to cherish schools even more. This can be accomplished by showing children examples of successful people with an education and by showing how people without an education many times struggle in life. Point out positive stories about how important a good education is to their future success.
I recently read an article about a teacher who removed all the chairs and equipment from the classroom and made the children sit on the floor. She told them that someone had to earn that chair for them. During that day, veterans came in, farmers came in, businessmen came in, other taxpayers came in, and she introduced them as the ones who had earned the chair for them to get an education. She told the students that without their sacrifice, their dedication to community, and their love for country, we would not have our schools of today. We all must help children to be more thankful and appreciative of their education.
It is not easy to help children learn to appreciate free schooling or anything else when it comes so easily. We must try to help children understand that nothing is free and that many hard-working local people are paying for their right to get a great education at Watertown-Mayer School. If we don’t get students to appreciate the sacrifice of our community, we will have a generation of adults where many feel entitled to all that brings self comfort at the expense of the work of others.
We must teach our students to stand on their own two feet, to work hard for everything they get, and to appreciate the gifts that are given to them each day. We all need to be proud to live in a school district where our constituents understand the importance of education and are willing to make the sacrifice to see that all of our community’s children receive the best possible education! All of us need to understand that this epitomizes the true meaning of community! Thank You Community!
Dave Marlette is the superintendent of Watertown-Mayer schools.