The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Columns

November 2, 2012

Should state education officials return to classroom?

Point Blank column

 

Is it time for the state Department of Education to set example for teachers, administrators and students? Is it time to put up where it counts — in the classroom and not behind closed doors in Charleston?

What would happen if the educational experts headquartered in Kanawha County were required to put in some class time each day on their way to the office? They would still be permitted to keep their salaries, but they would teach for one hour in a class of their choosing, at a school where test scores need to be improved.

Think of the tremendous contribution these knowledgeable people would be able to bring to the educational table of our state? Legislators could draft a bill that would offer incentives to all state officials drawing an educator’s paycheck to become involved with students for at least one class period each day. The salaried employees could stop by at a school in any community and volunteer for one hour or 90 minutes in a classroom situation chosen by the principal.

What are the benefits of such a plan? Think about it. This practice would enable quality educators who have been out of the classroom for a number of years to become reacquainted with the grassroots of their profession.

When it comes time to draw up mandates for the school system, administrators and teachers, these officials would have a firsthand knowledge of what is needed to improve the quality of learning and boost test scores in the state. At the same time, many of our most distinguished educators in Charleston have often opined how much they miss the classroom — not to mention the kids.

Such a plan would provide executives with an occasion to become immersed in the daily routines of public schools. Those who have experience in language arts would be able to bring their rich understanding of writing and reading to the academic table. Those who specialize in mathematics would be able to draw up lesson plans and design projects to help struggling students improve their math skills.

No doubt some would object to such an idea, saying that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to be reintroduced to the classroom atmosphere. But enough time for what?

Who is working to help the teachers and the principals and the students improve education in the public schools? I believe that the higher the salary earned by the department of education public servant, the more intense the drive to give something back to the school system that promoted them to their stellar academic position.

State workers making $80,000, $90,000, $100,000 or more would be able to take a break from their daily routines at the state department headquarters and volunteer their services, knowledge, teaching skills and expertise where it counts most-in the public school arena.

Now, of course, some of the state department heads would probably contend that doing so would be demeaning to the high-powered professionals who currently occupy office space in Charleston. They might even object to rubbing shoulders with common classroom teachers and mixing with the students of all age levels, from elementary and middle school to high school.

And yet, I am certain that the principals and teachers would welcome the opportunity for gaining professional educational expertise at their schools, even if it is only for one class period each day. Think of the payoffs and dividends to be gained from all educators working together for the good of the kids, the schools and in the communities.

And when orchestrating changes and alterations to the curriculum and the testing practices of the public school system, the educational specialists would be on site to explain those changes and alterations and how best to go about complying with the provisional mandates that sometimes takes months and even years for teachers to process and comprehend.

Think of the benefits of setting such an example for all educators in the state. Once implemented, it’s only a matter of time until county school boards of education would see the benefits of having board office personnel join forces with the state department and volunteer their time in the classroom.

I believe that local school officials, including county superintendents and assistants and coordinators and supervisors, would welcome the opportunity to return to the classroom for only one class period a day to make their contributions felt in the community. If given the chance, who would not want to give something back to the system that enabled them to climb the ladder of success.

Surely all educators worth their salary would be glad to contribute to children at all learning levels. What do you think of such a plan?

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Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail: jabbb@suddenlink.net

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