I read an editorial in the Dallas Morning News from Texas State Rep. Helen Giddings dated March 6 with great interest and enthusiasm. Finally a politician who gets it. I was encouraged by this letter because it went to the heart of educating students and a willingness to look at what is appropriate for children regardless of political ideology.
Too often education is a partisan, political football kicked around by politicians for whatever suits their own agendas. Giddings’ ideas were not only professionally insightful but also directly on target for an evolving, educational process. Her ability to garnish bipartisan support for alternative elementary interventions is impressive.
Children must be in school to be educated. To teach them, however, requires a different mindset than past generations employed. The nuclear family prevalent in the past is not as strongly a part of our current culture as it once was. Suspension home of days past often meant a reinforcement of well-defined mutual values. Now it is often seen as rejection and abandonment. The societal values we share today too often vary in scope and understanding. As adults we have to adapt to the realities of today, not the memories of yesterday. What I believe Giddings understands is that this is not the fault of the children, and we must approach what we want them to learn from a current definition of values.
When a child violates the rules that we set as a society, and by extension in education, it is up to us to teach them. Discipline is so often perceived as punishment when, in reality, discipline should be an opportunity for education, and consequence should be viewed as a prospect for growth rather than a reaction for a punitive response. Keeping order in the classroom is imperative for learning. Therefore teaching children the tools of self-control at an early age is a gift of a lifetime. Sending them home only puts them behind.
I have been in education for more than 25 years. I am a strong advocate for public education and the teachers who commit their lives to those ends. Teachers are tasked with the responsibility of educating our children and then often are ridiculed when they fail to achieve some arbitrary success point set upon them by anybody but a teaching professional. When discipline and attendance are cited as impediments to those goals, teachers are blamed for laziness and lacking dedication towards their profession. Instead of blaming teachers, let’s give them the tools and support they need to create a climate of learning and shared values.
I applaud the Texas initiative to pass HB 2616. I hope other states are watching and will learn from a positive Texas example.
– Ross Gamble, M.Ed., LPC, NCC, Lewisville