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Opinion | “I Just Feel So Unnecessary”

Once again I show my age because the headline quote was a favorite of the country musician-comic known as Stringbean.  Years ago he was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry and later on the TV show, Hee Haw.

His words definitely seem to fit the world of public schools we deal with each and every day across this state.  No, the schools are not unnecessary, but so much of what we deem to be “education” appear that way to me.  All the battles we wage in the Legislature, all the money spent to lobby, all the grand schemes we import from distant think tanks, all the paperwork we choke principals with, all the talk about “data driven”, all the hand wringing because we are not ranked number one in such and such.

Then I visit a school and the world I have just described is a million miles away.  A room of fourth graders could care less about what may happen in the State House.  Neither does their teacher.  Once again I am forcefully reminded that there are no classrooms at the State House, in the state Capitol, in the think tanks or in the Gordon Persons building that houses the Alabama Department of Education.

I am reminded that education is all about what takes place when a teacher and her students interact.  It is just that plain and simple.

Unfortunately we have hordes and hordes of folks who seem to have forgotten this.  Or did they ever know it?

So people try to bedazzle us with all their knowledge gleaned from countless pages of research and data, we send people to endless workshops and conferences where they fill their tote bags with an array of gizmos and pamphlets from vendors hawking the latest and greatest.  And for goodness sake, let’s not overlook technology with all of its bells and whistles.

There are hundreds of education experts in Alabama.  They are called teachers.  Or maybe we should just call them “the forgotten ones.”  Because like Stringbean, often times they just feel so unnecessary.  Definitely unappreciated.

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We expect them to solve all of society’s ills that are dumped on their doorstep each school day. Things like mental health issues, kids that have not had a good meal since they left school the day before, children who have never seen a dentist, youngsters who are just trying to survive.

We tell them it is all about data when it is really about finding some clean clothes for a child.  We tell them we have hired expensive consultants to work on another strategic plan that will eventually gather dust among all the ones that proceeded it.

Honest.  I know six current and former educators I could convene at 9 a.m. one morning and by noon they would have an outline of what we need in this state to move schools forward.

But then, this just makes too damn much sense.

Besides, if we did this, what would all those who claim to have all the answers bitch about?


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