A briefcase of possibilities

op briefcaseI grade about 2,000 essays a year. I do so because I am a high school English teacher, and because I also score Advanced Placement essays for a week every summer for Educational Testing Service. The first year I worked for ETS, by the second day of scoring, I had blurred vision, a stiff neck, and a dread of reading the words “relatable” or “cliché” one more time in the student responses to the essay portion of the test. But something happened the third day, the same something that happens when I read my own students’ work. Call it renewed vision. Call it human connection. Or call it fatigue hallucination. Whatever you call it, I began to read the essays as if they spoke directly to me, and what they said was that adolescents are as hungry for decency, hope, and goodness as any generation before them.

Classrooom contemplations: Showing up is always half the game

op gilchristAbsenteeism in American public schools has reached epidemic proportions. Six million students, one in eight, miss 30 days of school each year and are considered chronically absent. Children of poor families are four times as likely to be chronically absent than their peers and, by ninth grade, seven times more likely to drop out.

As students change how they learn, teachers must adapt

op gilchristEvery attentive person knows there is a revolution occurring in language, and much of what was once communicated by words is now communicated by images. Texting is quicker than calling, snap chatting quicker than texting, and emoticons quicker than either. My students, for whom emoticons are second nature, are smart, and they have a thorough understanding of icons and symbols. Formal research and informal observations for the last decade tell us these students learn differently than previous generations. Their learning responds directly to their environment’s demands. They learn interactively. They learn through images. They learn through sound. Very few students learn primarily through the written word. And yet the state test they must pass for English IV is a variety of excerpts from literary works and historical documents, followed by multiple-choice questions. 

Students will rise – or fall – to our level of expectations

op gilchristMy weekdays begin at 5 a.m. I have time to drink coffee with my husband, thank him for making my lunch, make myself presentable and read, pray, and meditate. I also clean out the cat’s litter box, which is perhaps as important as anything in preparing me for the harsh truths of my students’ lives. I am three months into my 16th year of teaching public high school.

Let’s show real respect for teachers

op educationBy Jim Hunt • Guest Columnist

Earlier this year, I called for a state commitment to raise teacher pay to the national average in the next four years. It was a bold proposal, but that’s what leaders do. Since that time, teachers got a raise, but what they didn’t get was a commitment. State lawmakers need to go back to the drawing board if they are going to show teachers that they are valued.

Macon approves final school officer position

out franklinAll 11 Macon County schools will now have their own school resource officer, called an SRO, after county commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to institute the eleventh position at Cartoogechaye Elementary School. 

The need to achieve: Western counties work to satisfy state law, get young readers on track

coverCarson Angel is excited to show off her reading skills as she waits outside East Franklin Elementary for her mom to pick her up. From the pile of hand-colored posters, worksheets and drawings at her feet, the 8-year-old picks out a small book made of quartered computer paper to read out loud. 

“We had to choose six animal facts and write them into sentences,” she explains. Each sentence is chockfull of everything you’d ever want to know about tigers. Carson had been a little too shy to read anything in front of her peers for the last-day-of-camp reading talent show, but one-on-one she’s all about it.  

Petition drive steers toward education funding

fr teachersAdvocates calling for increased state education funding made a stop in Haywood County Monday as part of a statewide tour en route to Raleigh, where they will deliver a stack of petitions signed by 61,000 state residents later this week.

Local educators cheer ruling: Judge declares 25 percent law unconstitutional

Local school leaders and educators are celebrating last week’s court ruling declaring a 2013 law that doles out a small raise for 25 percent of the state’s teachers — no more and no less — unconstitutional. 

Horse course: Horse therapy pilot program to be offered at South Macon Elementary

fr horsesWhen summer school starts up at South Macon Elementary this year, a pair of horses will be standing in a round pen outside, waiting for their first playmates. The equines will be helping Macon TRACS, a nonprofit dedicated to providing horse therapy to people with special needs, try out a pilot program bringing horses to the schools.

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