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School Opening: Get Ready, Get Ready
8/5/2015 5:16:17 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Teachers are gearing up for the first day of school. As I encountered students in office supply stores, they seemed less eager to return to school as they made their way through aisles of school supplies picking out paper, pens and notebooks. Tax-free weekend is always a good time for parents to take advantage of savings to purchase computers to enhance their children’s learning experience. I don’t know whether used cars are still on the list for tax free weekend but that can certainly result in savings for parents to help children get back and forth to school and after school activities.

Parents, you may not want to admit it but I am sure you are simply ecstatic that school opening is on the horizon. You finally get to watch soap operas without being interrupted with a request to take me here and take me there but easy on the soap operas and plan to actively participate in your child’s school.

All summer you have had to haul those little darlings back and forth to summer camps, summer jobs, summer schools and summer Vacation Bible School. Summer activities are just about over and you are looking forward to kicking back but before you get too comfortable, get ready, get ready.

With the advent of school, teachers will assume the roles of mother, father, nurse, disciplinarian, security guard, bus monitors, and educator. Teachers wear many hats and we forget sometimes that their primary role is to teach—to impart knowledge. Teachers have an awesome responsibility to shape young lives. Lives that will one day enrich the lives of others. It’s a cycle that is worth repeating. That is why it is so important that teachers give it their all the first time around.

As parents anxiously await the first day of school, there are many things to consider. Should I send my child back to a school that is failing? Is my child eligible for one of the magnet programs? Will my child have a teacher or a substitute teacher the first day of school? Will new schools be ready? Will my child need to take drugs to be able to sit still and learn?

School districts around the country are facing a teacher shortage. For several years, Charleston County School District has worked feverishly to find teachers to fill vacancies well into the school year. Years ago if you were to ask black students what they wanted to be when they finished high school, their answer would overwhelmingly be a teacher or doctor. Black high schools and colleges produced some of the best teachers and doctors that every lived. That success can be attributed to good teachers.

Teachers from the old school cared enough to stick with a student until the end results were something they could be proud of. When they heard or read about the accomplishments of one of their students, they beamed “that was my student”. And they followed “my student” from high school to college, those students who were fortunate enough to go to college, and on into adulthood. There were no “special education” students. To our teachers, all students were “special”.

We received the type of education that you could never forget. It was faraway places and things students could only dream about that teachers made into reality. Through old hand me down books, we read about Shakespeare and the hemisphere; but our teachers made it come alive through poetry, theatre and geography. We had a little knowledge about plants and animals because we planted crops and took care of live stocks. Some of y’all know what I am talking about. You were embarrassed if your friends found out you worked on a farm. You thought they didn’t know; but, they did. You could not work around livestock without the smell permeating your clothes. It was those caring teachers from the old school, that took what we thought were disgraceful chores and dignified those chores through Biology and Chemistry. It was no longer just picking corn and cotton. It was learning the composition of those commodities and how they could be transformed into products that you used on a daily basis.

Teachers are faced with many challenges this year. They will begin the year with a new superintendent. With the arrival of a new superintendent, changes are inevitable. How will the changes impact education? There will be some changes in teacher assignments. Will there be smaller class sizes? What about discipline? Will suspension and expulsions be reduced or will teachers continue to suspend and expel minority students at disproportionate rates? Will teachers be able to redirect the negative energy of troubled students into positive energy? Will teachers be able to produce rocket scientists out of rock headed students? That’s what teaching is all about. It’s about finding ways to transform students whose potentials are limited into students who believe they can be anything they want to be. It is the human nature that wants to learn and explore. Teaching is that something that finds even the smallest spark and transforms it into a flame. A flame that ignites the curiosity that leads to answers.

Will the new superintendent be able to turn education around in Charleston County? We have failed miserably in the past and we are down now for the count. The County Superintendent’s position has always been male dominated until recently. Females are known to clean house. So, y’all better get some big garbage bags because changes are going to come. Let’s hope the changes are positive and in the best interest of all students. Every child matters! Far too long the joy of learning has been overshadowed by a controversial School Board. Let’s put the joy back into learning. Change is inevitable. So, get ready, get ready for the beginning of another school year!

Oh Lordy beep, beep, here comes those yellow buses that regulate what time I can leave home. Get ready, get ready for traffic jams.

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