What’s Really Wrong With American Education?

‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The great teacher demonstrates. The superior teacher inspires.’ ― William Arthur Ward

Which teacher are you? Which teacher is teaching your children?

Summers off, paid vacations during the year, retirement benefits, need I go on? Those are all misnomers regarding the title of teacher. If you are a dedicated teacher, you spend your summers preparing for the oncoming year. And by the way, teachers have a 180 day contract spread over 12 months. There are NO paid vacations. My retirement benefits do not reflect the current inflation nor the cost of living. Need I go on?!

I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!, where I chronicled my failures, successes and teachable moments. Teaching was my calling, not because of social status, pay or ease but because of the incredible experiences of watching children grow. I believe the call to teach has been replaced by the “I don’t know what to do so I guess I’ll teach” syndrome. I am sad to admit I fell into that category in college and this lack-luster attitude followed me for the first five years of teaching. Continuing with What’s Really Wrong with American Education: Teachers who choose the vocation for all the wrong reasons.

You can spot these less than dedicated teachers: they dress, act and speak like their students; their mantra is it’s more important to be “cool” than to have credibility; they perform the bare minimum of instructing, grading and creativity; you can find them rushing in 10 minutes before their first class begins and leaving at the end of the day when the students depart; parents seldom criticize them, for these educators fly below the radar when it comes to student expectations. Let’s not forget that lowered expectations charm students into picking teachers who give the easy “A.” How do you know if you’re cut out to teach? Here are just three guidelines:

  1. Do children intrigue you, make you laugh and genuinely bring you joy?
  2. How do you feel about working for less pay than your peers in the business world?
  3. Do you possess tough skin, enough to sort through unreasonable requests and criticism?

Solution? The proactive position: If universities can invest time and money to recruit athletes, they need to do likewise encouraging high school juniors and seniors towards a teaching pathway. Like the prowess exhibited in athletes, perspective teachers would possess: integrity, a great work ethic, gifted in their subject area, high grades and already demonstrated a passion to teach. This could not happen overnight but with collaboration between high schools and neighboring institutions of higher learning, this could have a remarkable outcome. What’s the reactive approach? Make sure subpar teachers are not allowed to gain tenure. This is accomplished with a well stated job description along with measurable expectations, timeline of completion of those expectations and consistent consequences should the instructor fall short.

TUNE IN TOMORROW. Here’s a tease: Political ideology, designed to change the fabric of a democracy through the captured audiences of vulnerable children, must not be allowed to exist in kindergarten through high school.

PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com! Oh, and buy my book TODAY! Help a retired teacher survive the cost of gas! Better yet, invite me to speak. I do it for free!

What’s Really Wrong With American Education?

Part 3: Administrators who can’t or won’t support their staff!

HEY everyone, happy Fri-Yay! Here I am, once again, standing up for my colleagues. Am I alone? Hopefully you all are standing with me. I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! Today’s focus: bad administrators. No sour grapes, just reality: one of those administrators did end my career quite profoundly. Continuing with What’s Really Wrong with American Education: Where have all the good admin gone?

I’ve worked with 21 principals/department chairs over my 46 year career. Only two literally stood up for me. Perhaps the good admin haven’t gone anywhere. They just don’t exist! However, a special salute to those who do protect their teachers. Since only two actually had my back, these examples will not take long:

The first time it happened was in 1973. Teachers, parents and admin were gathered to discuss the performing arts. The assistant principal made an off the cuff negative comment about my wanting to audition students for a special choir. The principal turned to him and said, “I’m going to tell you what the superintendent told me, as a principal, when I complained about the basketball coach’s selection of starters. Shut up.” I couldn’t believe my ears! My principal just told the vice principal to “shut up” on my account.

The second and last time it happened was in 1994. My principal appeared in my office at the end of the day and asked me to respond to a situation involving two hostile girls in my class. I explained what happened and how I handled it. He said “thank you” and left. A couple of days later, I asked him what that was all about. He said the parents of one of the girls accused me of favoring the other girl and acting unprofessionally. My principal sat down with the parents, listened to them and then said he doubted Mrs. Baack would behave in such a way and he already had spoken to me about it. The parents were placated since I was “brought in for questioning” and dropped the matter. Ironically that same principal, a few years later, told A ranting parent I had one flaw: I cared too much about my students. A back-handed compliment but one I wore with honor until I was forced out of my teaching position in 2017.

Is it possible to believe administrators could protect their staff from frivolous complaints? I always felt like I was standing on the narrow, bobbing branch while my principal robustly sawed away at the other end. Here are a couple of my fondest memories:

I brought in a highly successful university football player (first round draft pick), who loved to play piano by ear and talk to kids about having a good work ethic. The presentation was amazing. Afterwards my principal called me over. I was expecting a nice compliment. Instead he told me we must not interrupt the academic day ever again with this kind of dribble.

There were two suicides at a neighboring school so I asked a few other staff members if they would like to set up an after school club to mentor kids. We did, lots of kids came and it was a great success. No, I am not a trained social worker. We never went into the dark recesses of these kids’ minds. They just wanted a place to feel safe, hang out and discuss the esoteric issues of the day. The school newspaper thought it a wonderful addition to our school so of course they did an article on it. When the principal read the story, he called in my colleagues and admonished them. They came to warn me and it’s a good thing. I didn’t get admonished. I almost got fired. He told me if I ever did anything like that again, he would fire me. For once in my life, I had a comeback that didn’t take two hours to formulate and I said this: If caring about kids can get me fired, perhaps teaching was not the field I thought it was.

Solution? It’s simple. Drawing on yesterday’s podcast, there are two groups who must be held accountable. The first group: We must challenge the central administration to fact find and provide due process for any teacher harassed by chronically complaining parents or needless trauma caused by a feckless principal. The second group: School boards must be proactive in protecting their teachers, which translates that they must be involved in the day to day operations of their schools. But here is something which could be corrected TODAY: when a teacher files a grievance, it should be answered within hours and the process should NEVER TAKE WEEKS OR IN SOME CASES, MONTHS! During my tenure as a college department chair, I discovered that the grievance process, created by my division chair, was designed to last 90-180 days. Who, after six months, has the time or the energy to follow up. I believe this also true in most school districts, where grievances are allowed to sit on an administrator’s desk for 60-90 days.

TUNE IN MONDAY. Here’s a tease: Teachers who choose the profession for all the wrong reasons.

PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com! Oh, please buy my book TODAY and help a retired teacher survive inflation!

What’s Really Wrong With American Education?

Part 2: A short cut to eradicating teachers: parents and emails!

My fast exit from teaching, forced upon me by an administrator too weak-kneed to support me when a parent went rogue, motivated me to address our country’s educational issues. Continuing with What’s Really Wrong with American Education: those love/hate relationships teachers have with parents. Just a random fact: I mention the word “parents” 360 times in my book!

With total transparency, I am a parent and grandparent. When our son was traversing through the school system, my husband and I tried to advocate for him in a kind and non-confrontational way. Such is no longer the case. Adversarial parents have no place in today’s educational system but unfortunately administrators allow them residence.

Just so you know I speak truth, here are a three examples of blood-curdling craziness I faced with parents:

Example 1: My principal came running into my room, whispered in my ear that I must go home at once. A parent called the school and threatened to come to school and kill me. You can’t make this up. Did I quit immediately and look for a safer job? No, I actually taught an additional 32 years after that event! Oh by the way, the parent never came to school.
Example 2: At a restaurant fund-raising event, one of my parents became upset with the service. So she marched over to the owner’s wife and told her to F off. But this mother was not finished. During a shouting match with the owner, the parent hurled a remote pager system, hitting the assistant manager on the head. Here is some irony: my micromanager principal, who admitted she was trying to drive me out of education, didn’t even flinch when she heard about it.
Example 3: The one that did me in: the false claim, asserted by a parent I never met, accused me of misappropriating funds for a GoFundMe account. The parent complained I was grading his son on the amount of money he contributed to the GoFundMe project. The entire conversation would seem almost laughable-I would never do something like that nor would any teacher-but it wasn’t humorous at all. This father’s determination to ruin my reputation and ultimately end my career was successful.

The most egregious deed of today’s parents is best summed up with this premise: how dare any teacher question my child’s learning or behavior. Here is an example of the pattern:
1. My child is perfect.
2. The teacher asserts he is not perfect, which is a personal affront to me.
3. Where’s my computer? And 10 minutes later, a rant is signed and hitting“send” begins the nightmare for teachers who dared to question a child’s ability.
4. Most often, these diatribes leave the cloud and land on a teacher’s computer just before the first morning class begins.
5. The next seven hours, the teacher only has time for instruction and cannot reply or defend the accusations. But make no mistake, the day was ruined by a disgruntled parent who believed his child was perfect!

Solution? It’s simple. There is one person and two groups who must be held accountable. The first person: Principals need to do more than just acquaint themselves with their staff. Know your teachers, have their back and support them when they are under assault by parents who truly believe they have the innate right to disparage a teacher. Some parents will even go further, IF allowed, and demand the instructor fired. Such was my case. The first group: Central administration must fact find and provide due process for any teacher wearing a target. And finally, School boards must be proactive in protecting their teachers. No principal should ever be allowed to badger or demote any teacher without repercussion.

TUNE IN TOMORROW. Here’s a tease: 21:2 . This is the ratio of all the principals/department chairs I served (21) to the ones who actually supported me (yes, only 2).

By the way, if you are interested in a free seminar, you can reach me at rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com. Of course I want to sell books but I also want to share my experiences first person. And I speak for free! Just need my travel expenses covered.

PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL . If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com!

What’s Really Wrong With American Education?

Part 1: University teaching programs

I loved my years at my university: the parties, sorority life, football and basketball games. Even then I was politically active, elected to the student senate and passionate to demonstrate against the Vietnam war. And oh those stimulating professors…not so much. I found nothing in my first two years of classes which related to my becoming an educator. In fact, I’m pretty sure I paid tuition to support random and sometimes obsolete required subjects taught by detached professors. By my junior year, more education pedagogy was included but I didn’t student teach until my senior year. Imagine my peers who discovered, too late, that teaching was not for them.

Fast forward to my 25 years of working with student teachers as a classroom supervisor. Initially the talent pool was remarkable and the passion for teaching discernible. But slowly, through the years, this all changed and not for the better. I was working with student teachers who did not have command of the English language, who possessed a poor work ethic and minimal skills in their major field. And then it got worse. One student teacher was a sexual predator and another really didn’t belong in a university teaching program. When I attempted to delete my stamp of approval for these student teachers, the university ignored my assessments and allowed them to graduate. So when year 26 arrived, I stopped working with student teachers. Do I believe my experience personifies what’s happening today in our colleges? No, I don’t. I think it’s worse.

I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! My fast exit from teaching, provided by a principal who needed to trade me in for a younger model, motivated me to address America’s educational issues. I was thrilled to receive an invitation to provide a multi-day workshop, based on my book, at a prestigious university, school district and school board. For several weeks, I researched what was happening in the schools, school boards and university settings. As I prepared my lecture, I purchased hundreds of materials to support my presentation. And then, without much ado, I was canceled. My guess? I do not hide my conservative point of view in my book. To God be the glory for giving me an incredible career working with the very best children ever.

When I approached my alma mater and offered to do a free seminar for their student teachers, based on the vast knowledge of a 46 year career, I received a tepid response from the department chair and two professors. When I tried to set a date, the final aggrieved response was no response. Before the pandemic, I reached out to 15 colleges and universities offering the same free seminar. Not one institution even bothered to acknowledge receiving my email. Oh wait, one department chair wanted to meet me for coffee in a couple of months, when things “calmed down.” I guess that counts as a response.

Those actions do personify exactly what is wrong with America’s teacher colleges: proven ideas, solutions and real world knowledge is met with scorn. What do I, a retired teacher, know about pedagogy? Frankly, pedagogy be damned. If a teacher cannot maintain a positive learning environment, deliver fair and balanced discipline, communicate with transparency to both admin and parents and navigate the highly technical internet grading systems, knowledge of subject area is moot. Why? Because the classroom is in chaos, entitled children are dictating policies and battles rage between colleagues and admin. And we wonder why our children are struggling in school.

By the way, if you are interested in a free seminar, you can reach me at rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com. I talk for free-just need my travel covered!

TUNE IN TOMORROW. Here’s a tease What do the entitled parent, hostile email and spineless administrator have in common? They are the common denominator for teachers leaving the field in larger numbers than ever before!

PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK TO ANY AND ALL . If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com! I got your back!

What’s Really Wrong With American Education?

If you like the spoken word on this subject, catch my podcasts on paulabaack.substack.com.

So why is America 27th in the world (according to Business Insider) when it comes to educating our children? As a 46 year veteran teacher, allow me to count the ways:

  1. America’s universities are NOT providing real world teacher training.
  2. Chronically complaining parents, who seldom are condemned by those in authority, pride themselves in driving out teachers.
  3. Inept administrators, who find it challenging to navigate today’s issues, are unable or unwilling to support their staff.
  4. Teachers, who choose the profession for the wrong reasons, are taking the places of those who genuinely became educators to serve our children.
  5. Any political organization, with an agenda to change the fabric of a democracy through its vulnerable children, should cease and desist.
  6. School boards who act as a rubber stamp or don’t act at all are stifling school districts across the nation.
  7. Students, who whine and complain, usually supported by entitled parents, have more voice in decision-making than their teachers.
  8. A culture, who accepts low pay and poor conditions for teachers as the norm, cannot expect positive results in learning.
  9. A country where education is not first and foremost will eventually succumb to mediocrity from the labor force all the way to the executives.
  10. A plethora of people who could care, but don’t, will continue to tout a great success in education when there really is none.

I am one of those crazy teachers who firmly believes she can change the world! But it will take all walks of life to transform our downward spiraling educational system. Translation: if you are reading this and do nothing, you are a part of the problem! I will define, address and give solutions to the above 10 components. Stay tuned.

KIDS IN CRISIS: PROACTIVE RESPONSE NEEDED NOW

Student Suicides Drive

Las Vegas Schools to Reopen

Got your attention? Las Vegas schools, like most in the United States, closed to in person classes since March 2020. That’s almost one year out of a child’s learning, which not only encompasses academics but also physical, mental stimulation and social interaction. More importantly, teachers and others in the academic community possess no way to insure the mental health of “virtual” students. In my last blog, I pleaded that local schools would open to in person as soon as humanly possible. Yet the schools here are open with hybrid model, after complete remote learning from Thanksgiving to the second week in January. Interestingly many parochial and private schools never closed. If some did close, it was only for two to three weeks in the name of flattening that foreboding national curve.

So I plead again. Open the schools to full time, in person learning NOW! Southern Colorado, and in particular, local school districts (El Paso and Pueblo counties) experienced more than their share of children committing suicide. According to The Colorado Sun, from 2015 through 2017, 222 Colorado youths died by suicide. A new report by the United Health Foundation states Colorado has the highest increase in teen suicide rate in the U.S. since 2016. Do we need another suicide to justify remote learning is not working?

With remote or even hybrid learning platforms, teachers lost the ability to perceive students in trouble. Have you looked at a remote learning screen? It’s jammed with faces trying to stay afloat in a sea of transmitted information beaming across the frail bandwidths of our communities. I volunteered to help children navigate this new normal. The one thing I took away: no time is built in to check for understanding. The state’s complacency in banning common core during remote learning continues to place our children in dire need of person to person, in the same room, experiences.

I wore my mask, practiced social distancing, schools stayed closed and yet I got Covid 19. I am in a vulnerable age group so I can best say: stop trying to protect people in my age group! Schools must open within the next 30 days for the sake of our youths’ mental health. Parents, students, teachers and admin must be part of the solution and not a part of the problem. A proactive stance is desperately needed by our school districts. Science no longer supports lock downs or school closings. Kids are in crisis.

Paula Baack is a retired teacher of 46 years. Her book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is the first place winner (Nonfiction/Occupational) in Topshelf’s 2020 Book Award. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Baack is available for parents and educators Zoom workshops. Contact: rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com.

I CONTRACTED COVID-19 IN SPITE OF REMOTE LEARNING AND LOCK DOWNS

Our city’s school districts used hybrid scheduling for the past four months, quarantining thousands of kids due to potential cases of this deadly virus. Covid tracked down my husband and me anyway. As of two weeks ago, our school districts decided on total remote learning. We still got sick. I haven’t seen my grandchildren but a handful of times in 10 months. It did not stop us from catching the virus. Corporate worship in church was removed. Yet this pandemic found its way into our home. I’ve eaten in a restaurant perhaps ten times in the past 10 months. Yes, you get it. We got sick.

The first question the health department asked me was where did I contract Covid-19? I have no idea. With so much of our population being asymptomatic, the spread of this virus is surging without the ability to trace the origins. Mask shaming, ineffectual contact tracing and shutting down schools IS NOT WORKING!

I not only survived this pandemic but was never hospitalized, which according to the fear mongering press, is nothing less than a miracle since I am in the high risk age category. Before the reader becomes distraught that I possess no understanding of how serious Covid is, I lived it for 14 days. I read about my ensuing death in the local print media. I heard about my agonizing final days on this earth from the non-stop coverage on national television. Every night of those two weeks, I slept alone and prayed for Jesus’ healing, truly believing I was living my final days. So why is it important that a retired teacher survived this virus? It isn’t. However this is:

In an August 23, 2020 blog, I wrote the following:

1. This virus is not going away by itself any time soon. Breakouts in the schools will happen.
2. If you close down to mitigate Covid, you will lesson the spread but the virus will still be present when you open back up. The cycle continues: close down, wait and see, open up and experience surges.
3. Virtual learning is destroying the lives of special needs children, non-traditional learners and children whose parents are unable to provide direction and stability.
4. Learning online has inadvertently created a “class system” of haves and have nots. Those families who are able to monitor their children, possess multiple devices and abundant bandwidth for Wi-Fi will survive. Those without will fail.
5. Waiting for a vaccine alludes to two misperceptions: the vaccine will have 100% success and the majority of people will opt to receive it.

“A child miseducated is a child lost.”—John F. Kennedy. The class system created by educating children online, even if inadvertent, is not only miseducating our children but will continue to have a negative impact on this generation for years to come.

Three days ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the esteemed infectious disease expert, stated clearly: Close the bars and keep schools open. Yet most schools in our state are completely online. Listen to the science? Yes, that would be my advice as a retired teacher who survived Covid-19. Open up the schools TOMORROW!

Paula Baack is a retired teacher of 46 years. Her book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Baack is available for parents and educators Zoom workshops. Contact: rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com.

ADMINISTRATORS PROTECT YOUR STAFF!

Recently posted on social media by a teacher at her wit’s end: Simple request from a teacher to all parents: be kind. I have had my ass chewed more this week than in all my years of teaching combined. I didn’t plan the pandemic. I don’t make the rules. I am doing my best to keep up with more while having less (less (wo)manpower, less access to students, less time, etc.). I am neglecting MY children to help yours. I am never NOT thinking about how to be more…more effective, more communicative, more gentle. I am human…and I can only take so much. I am NOT your enemy. I am in your court. And I love your kids.

Isn’t there enough hardship with the pandemic, closed schools, loss of jobs, and riots? What parent truly believes now is the time to pile on their children’s teachers with petty complaints or worse, vitriol emails?

In my book Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! I address parents and their lack of support for today’s teachers in Chapter 5 (Parental Assault, The Entitlement Factor, Watch Your Own Six). I honestly thought with online or hybrid schooling, parents would step back and allow for this incredibly difficult time to transpire without needless belligerence. It appears this is not the case. But it’s really not the parent’s fault. Parents are enabled by invertebrate administrators too afraid to stand up for their staff.

Until public school administrators realize America’s shortage of qualified teachers is frequently due to lack of admin support, teachers will always be vulnerable to baseless parental aggression. Such was my experience. As a performing arts instructor for over four decades, there were always a handful of parents who felt entitled to complain. My final year, one parent in particular made it his cause to attack me on every front. But never face to face, never in an email. Instead he circumvented me via my administrator and then the superintendent’s office. I was never able to confront my accuser or the central admin. Without due process, I was told if I returned to my school, I would be demoted in pay and in position. Be aware that’s the new way of firing tenured teachers. And it worked. Verbally admonished by my shouting principal, I retired. He just did not possess the intelligence nor the internal fortitude to protect me from complaints. And he is not alone. It is the common complaint heard from teachers leaving the profession.

What should administrators do when teachers are attacked? Zero tolerance. What does that mean? A parent’s claim against any teacher, when presented as an unjust verbal or email assault, will not be addressed by either the teacher or the administration. Period.

This does not preclude a parent having concerns about his child’s teacher. Those conversations should always be encouraged. I became a better teacher when a parent shared a concern with me in a kind and gentle way. This allowed me to contemplate the situation without insults and threats. With this positive environment, I could initiate a compromise both beneficial to me and the student.

America is losing one of her greatest assets: teachers. Students, parents, and administrators must come together and rectify this dangerous situation by creating an environment of positive collaboration. We all are on the same team.

Paula Baack is a retired teacher of 46 years. Her award winning book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Baack is available for parents and educators Zoom workshops. Contact: rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com.

SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED

It’s the tale of two cities. Last weekend my husband and I escaped to Summit County, Colorado, which boasts the lovely ski areas of Breckenridge and Keystone. Although the Colorado wild fires attempted to dampen our spirits with poor air quality, we were not disappointed. Well, that’s not entirely true.

We stayed a couple miles from Breckenridge. The tiny town was crowded with locals as well as regional and international visitors. Main Street was officially closed in order to facilitate open air retail stores and restaurants. I never felt unsafe in the bustling atmosphere. People wore masks and practiced social distancing.

Keystone was a ghost town. The first sign, after walking across the bridge, stated it best: Sorry, we’re closed. I couldn’t comprehend this one sign represented the entire village. I explored the once vital and vibrant main street only to find four people drinking coffee at the only open coffee bar. Last year, Keystone was filled with running children, street musicians and activities designed for the entire family. This year, it was void of life. While Covid 19 was never mentioned, it was painfully obvious that the village of Keystone played it safe and hunkered down until a vaccination or the virus simply dies.

What is the analogy? The tale of two cities parallels the tale of two educational approaches to the virus: stay open, wear masks and practice social distancing (and thrive) or close the campus to in person learning with a sign at the front door stating “Sorry, We’re Closed”.

Keeping children at home, full time, presents insurmountable challenges for parents, students and teachers. Easy for me to say as a retired, stay-at-home former teacher? Since May 1, my voice studio opened for in person learning. I know it is not the same as a classroom full of 30 children. But with forehead thermometer scanning, hand washing, sanitizer and six feet of distancing, none of my students nor I became ill. One of my student’s parents did come down with Covid. Yet the disease did not transmit.

I do not fault either approaches practiced by our school systems due to this virus. Acting as an arm chair quarterback is just too easy and holds no value to the teachers, students and admin working in the trenches. But this much I am certain:

1. This virus is not going away by itself any time soon. Breakouts in the schools will happen.
2. If you close down to mitigate Covid, you will lesson the spread but the virus still remains when you open back up. The cycle will only elevate the fears: close down, wait and see, open up and experience break outs. Repeat.
3. Virtual learning is destroying the lives of special needs children, non-traditional learners and children whose parents are unable to provide direction and stability.
4. Learning online inadvertently creates a “class system” of Haves and Have Nots. Those families with multiple devices, with abundant bandwidth for Wi-Fi will survive. Those without will fail.
5. Waiting for a vaccine contains two misperceptions: the vaccine will have 100% success and the majority of people will opt to receive it.

“A child miseducated is a child lost.”—John F. Kennedy. The class system created by educating children online, even if inadvertent, is miseducating our children. Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved. The computer screen is incapable of transmitting the authentic acceptance, needed by so many of our children, in order to learn.

Paula Baack is a retired teacher of 46 years. Her book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Baack is available for parents and educators Zoom workshops. Contact: rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com.

WE HAVE TO MAKE THIS WORK!

Malala Yousafzai is my idol! In 2012, I taught at a high school with over 150 students in my choral program. When radicals attempted to snuff out the life of a 15 year old girl trying to get an education in Pakistan, I was shocked and ready to activate my students into Malala’s plight. I had 300 buttons made with the words “Ask Me About Malala!” Those students were tasked to wear and share with at least five people about the attempted murder of a Pakistani teenager who only sought to attend school. In about three days, all 1200 of our student body were made aware of Malala’s devotion to education, which almost caused her death.

At the age of 17, Malala Yousafzai went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the youngest to ever receive this international recognition. Why speak of her now? She allowed nothing to get in her way to receive an education. As students, parents, and educators prepare for this ominous school year of Covid, economic downfall and riots, a determination to educate our children must take precedence in our conversations. It is paramount to stop the “we can’t send kids to school” or “virtual learning is impossible” discourse which is occupying most American households and educational agendas.

What dialogue should take place between parents and educators? Perhaps borrowing from Malala: COVID CANNOT STOP US. WE WILL EDUCATE OUR CHILDREN, IF IT IS IN THE HOME, SCHOOL OR ANYPLACE. Simplistic? Utopian? Impractical?

No! This is America. But our country is mired in politics, fear mongering and a virus which continues to baffle. We put men on the moon, cured polio, fought for our freedom and the freedom of others in major wars. What happened to the “can do” spirit of this great republic? Let’s try this for a change:

  1. Speak in front of our children about the new frontier of receiving an education. If children are “in person” learning, approach the new sanitized classroom with creativity instead of dread. If virtual learning is the model, talk of teacher support and finding new ways of learning. If the hybrid version is in place, discuss how valuable in school and virtual learning can effect the safety and well-being of all.
  2. Stop the impulse to bury someone’s diverse opinions about our educational challenges with insults and thereby squelching what could be productive dialogues.
  3. Replace opining about the “impossible” situation of our children, teachers and educational platforms with positive language. I would challenge all parent and teachers to join together on a social media platform and share creative ideas to get through the next weeks and months.

Perhaps we need to make thousands of buttons with the statement, “Ask Me About Malala!!” to remind our nation about the importance of receiving an education. If Malala fought against tremendous odds, then we can make this work! It’s time our country decides, collectively, to achieve the best education possible for our children: at home, at school or anyplace!

Paula Baack is a retired teacher of 46 years. Her book “Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Baack is available for Zoom workshops for parents and educators. Contact: rescuetheteacher@yahoo.com.