“Well, back in my day …” is a frequent phrase in my ear given my role, since nearly all of us went to school and most of us still are connected to it in some way — as a parent, an employee, a grandparent, a taxpayer.
As a parent who now has been a graduate longer than I was a student, I sometimes find myself, too, reminiscing about “my day.” Although as I write this, our schools are closed and we’re teaching and learning online, I can tell you that what really matters and what makes public education great has not changed at all.
What really matters is that our employees care about our community’s children. I see this care every day, in everyone from our bus drivers to our teachers and our cafeteria staff.
Our core mission also remains the same: to make sure every child receives the best education possible to prepare them for the future – and not just college, but also for work and for life. Don’t let social media complainers or TV pundits fool you; our children still are learning what you learned. They’re just learning more, and in different ways. As your children have learned at home in recent weeks, you have seen that firsthand!
In our schools, children still begin their day with the Pledge of Allegiance and, while teachers no longer lead the prayer, students and teachers pray within our schools every day. Children still learn to read, count money, write cursive, and all about our nation’s history. Our high schools still offer “vo-tech” classes although the 35 different career pathways not only include construction (aka “shop”) and family and consumer sciences (aka “home ec”), they also include everything from the Internet of Things to health-care science.
We know helping with homework can be trickier, given, for example, that students learn so many more ways to solve a math problem. Adapting to technology, which our children grasp so easily, can be a challenge, too. I’m blown away at the depth of math and technology knowledge my second-grader already has, as compared to my “carry the one” and scratch-paper memories. But I also can remember my dad asking, “Where’s the book?” whenever I asked for homework help. Now I know it was to refresh his own memory and understand the “new” way we were learning.
What else has changed? Access to technology is much improved, as is school construction design and the farm-fresh and homemade school meals. I’ll take those changes over TRS-80s and rectangle pizza any day.
We’ve changed as a community, too. Prior to the school closures, families had less time together at home than past generations. Schools today provide more services than ever before to fill gaps as a result. A top example of this is our Social and Emotional Learning initiative to ensure the mental health and well-being of students and staff is not overlooked; this work is carrying on during the closures. That’s also different from “my day,” but I’m glad to know there are more people concerned about my children’s hearts, as well as their minds, and hope you are, too.
– Barbara P. Jacoby, chief communications officer for the Cherokee County School District.