Hard to love school these days

Several days ago, our paper ran a news story in which Georgia’s 2016 Teacher of the Year told a group in Atlanta that school just ain’t what it used to be, one reason that teachers aren’t lasting as long as they did in our student days.

Standardized tests are confounding teachers, Ernie Lee said at a meeting in Atlanta, according to Walter Jones of Morris News Service. Moreover, teacher pay is difficult to live on, paperwork is excessive and students are unruly and use cellphones to cheat on tests.

“When people look at it, they are comparing what they experienced in school as being the same thing,” Lee said in the story. “Folks, it is not the same thing. It is radically different.”

It sounds as though school has changed for teachers and students alike. It certainly isn’t the way it was when I was coming along.

To me, school was a home away from home. Better, even, because it included no farmwork, no housework, no fighting with my brothers. Just books, glorious books. It’s too bad some kids today don’t enjoy school the way I did.

Our teachers seemed to relish their jobs, too. They smiled. They were friendly and helpful, taking extra time with those who needed it. They didn’t seem burdened so much as thrilled, so they taught for years.

I still remember the first standardized test I ever saw. We were in the fifth grade, and Miss Forester introduced those sheets of paper with the circles to be blackened in. We thought it was all a joke, but when the results came back, she said I had rated 13th grade.

I laughed.

“There’s no 13th grade, Miss Forester,” I said, ready to get back to reading and spelling bees and other fun pursuits.

“No, but there’s the first year of college,” she said.

Any test that would put me eight grades ahead in school obviously was bogus, or else I didn’t know how to fill out little circles. In any event, they didn’t advance this 10-year-old to the university, so I didn’t think much of such tests. I never had such success on them again.

Likewise, kids today don’t love those tests, and the teachers who have to administer and grade them and make sense of them can’t be fans, either.

Life in class was wonderful for me. If the teacher was called out of the room, she would put someone in charge to take names of troublemakers. Usually the biggest offense was talking, or maybe throwing wadded-up paper. Luckily, we had no cellphones and didn’t know about drugs.

The teacher’s drawer of contraband held nothing more dangerous than yo-yos and comic books. Students actually took weapons, real and toy, to school sometimes, but more as show-and-tell items at recess than as Exhibit A. We had bullies – tough ones – but they left only physical scars.

Overall, our school life was good for students and teachers. We should help our state’s top teacher try to find the way back.

Reach Glynn Moore at glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.

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