I have been in the Real Men Read program for five years, and the experience has been extremely enjoyable and rewarding for me. My assignment has been with Lindley Elementary School. When you enter the school, you notice how the surroundings are quiet and peaceful. The maintenance of the building reflects pride; it is clean and the smells are of a well-maintained building. The people in the front office are extremely friendly and appear happy.
The classroom assigned to me the last three years is second grade with Paige Shlater. This last year I had to request her class as my assignment was elsewhere. I wanted to work in her class because of the positive energy and dedication she provides in her classroom. Discipline is reached by positive reinforcement, and she never has to raise her voice.
Second graders’ concentration is limited, and she has the ability to recognize when this occurs and change the pace or format to prevent the children from getting frustrated or bored. The children are special and do need love and attention. The love and respect by the teacher and her students is reflected in the class. In each class there are always two or three troubled children who have a tendency to be bored and not interested in school. This challenge is handled well by Shlater, who gives them respect and continually guides them in a positive manner. However, to meet the needs of these students, she would have to neglect her class. The school system has to identify these students and give them special guidance while they are young for them to be successful.
Shlater’s teaching skills provide what the school can give these students, an opportunity for achievement. Lindley appears to have many teachers who could have an easier job elsewhere. Shlater has been there for 13 years. I believe there is much caring at Lindley, and to the staff it’s more than a job. I personally love the school because of these qualities.
However, many of the students have a poor background for educational success because of poverty, which often results in more fractured families, low interest in learning, drugs and crime in the neighborhood. In some cases English is a second language (Lindley has Spanish as a primary language.) There are families and students who still thrive in these conditions, but obviously the students in general are not going to test as well as students in more affluent neighborhoods.
The answer to public education is more than good teachers and the right subject matter. Public and parental involvement is needed, plus added resources to help the at-risk students and their parents. Dollars spent on a troubled young child are much more effective than dollars spent later when they become adults. We will be able to offset this cost with a better workforce and a healthier, more productive society that results in less welfare, less crime and fewer jails. The problem now is we are taking money away from the public schools. It’s time for a politician with some backbone to stand up and attempt to solve the problem rather than take the easy road to be elected. It’s not easy to request more funding for public schools for results in the future, especially when they are the scapegoat for the failures of our educational system.