Back in the dark ages before computers, mobile phones, and even color TV, our public school education was just that—education. Teachers had ample time to be teachers. Their paperwork consisted of daily attendance reports and entering grades in student transcripts.
When I heard a newscaster last night saying “ayr weather forecast” when she meant “our weather forecast,” I was reminded of Mrs. Craddock who taught me English in the eighth grade. She would have raised her brows and made the newscaster correct her pronunciation. “Our, Miss X, has only three letters but it is a two syllable word,” she would have said.
Thinking about that brought a smile to my face when I remembered Mrs. Craddock asking a student why he had missed the class picnic the day before. The hapless chap replied, “I’d’a come if I’d’a knowed we could’a rode, but I couldn’t’a et nothin’ nohow.” Mrs. Craddock’s eyebrows shot up, and the boy got the message. “I mean, I’d have come if I had known we could ride, but I couldn’t have eaten anyway,” he said in perfect English.
I could go on for days about the remarkable teachers I had in small town schools, but that’s not my point. What is obvious today is that most teachers do not have time to teach like they did in days gone by. Emphasis has shifted from teaching to tasking. And I won’t even get started with the ridiculous pressure to get students to perform well on national standardized tests. Back in my school days, the only students who did not perform well in class and on mid-term and final exams were kids whose parents gave them no support at home. That is still the problem today, and all the SATs and STARs and other anachronisms we have for standardized tests will never get the job done.
Although my true loves as far as subject matter was concerned always ran toward the liberal arts, I also learned science from teachers who made biology, chemistry, physical science, and physics interesting. Back then they had time to do that. I remember how my fifth grade teacher brought a small steam engine to class to illustrate steam locomotion. I remember Mr. Middleton going over and over the basics of chemistry until I finally got it the night before our six-weeks exam. I remember my math teacher who prepared her students so well that I was able to pass college algebra without ever cracking a book. It was a fourth grade history and geography teacher who turned me on to reading.
Now days, I do not accept the idea that video games and phone texting have destroyed our educational system. They have electronic devices in China and Japan, don’t they? Why are American schools ranked 17th in science today? (That’s a rhetorical question.) Our school children don’t read? Why not get them reading Harry Potter and Hunger Games on their iPods, Kindles, Nooks, or even their cell phones? That’s the main reason I published my YA novels, Veronica and the Cave of the Wind, and Veronica and the New World as eBooks. If parents today push their kids to read and spend a little time discussing what they’ve read, it would be guaranteed that test scores would go up. Let’s face reality, a kid who cannot read can never solve a word problem in math or understand the exciting discoveries in modern science!