Once upon a time, teachers had freedom to teach

By Lnn Moncus

Those of us who loved school, no matter which side of the desk we were on, never get over wanting to join the crowds on their way to that first day of school. Just thinking about the joys of education causes us to pause and to be thankful for having had the opportunity to be both student and teacher.

When I retired, I was a basketcase for the first few days of school even though I had moved home and no longer had a place on campus. Of course, I had a similar feeling when I graduated from high school and could no longer return there as a student. Just listening to children as they are getting ready for their classes still causes pangs of homesickness for those wonderful days in the classroom.

Recently, some of us were talking about the difference between the school supplies of today and those of yesterday when we entered school for the first time. We were probably more proud of our Big Chief tablet, yellow pencil, and box of crayons than today’s children are of the massive numbers of supplies they need in order to begin to learn. Whereas, we were going to learn the 3 R’s, today’s students don’t seem to ever get around to learning them but become experts on computers, calculators, and talking books. We were very excited about learning to print, even though we had already been taught that by our parents. We were also eager to learn to read more and more even though we had already begun to read before we could remember. Some were even eager to learn arithmetic and could hardly wait to master the multiplication tables.

We really didn’t realize how fortunate we were to be free to say “The Pledge of Allegiance” and “The Lord’s Prayer,” any more than we could comprehend that our teachers were free to teach us without even knowing about the numerous tests forced upon all ages today. We could learn for the sake of learning and really didn’t have to worry about our school receiving a failing grade because all of us were not learning at the same pace. The few tests forced upon us were not life threatening to us or to our teachers. We found out where we stood as far as grade level when we saw the scores on some of those tests and knew whether or not we needed extra help or could just relax and go with the flow.

As we progressed, we had even more fun because we had numerous subjects to explore and more teachers to help us as we proceeded.
As a teacher in the past, I had the privilege of working with so many wonderful students and of associating with some outstanding teachers. We just went about the business of education and had great fun every day. As long as we could be with our students and try to teach them, we were in great good form, but politics began to enter and to take us away from the real purpose of teaching – the young people. Administrators began to see how many committees they could dream up and how many extra meetings they could call. Emphasis seemed to be placed on almost anything except teaching and learning.

Even though I have never missed all those meetings and that busy work, I will forever miss being around young people who are eager to learn and who are very much alive. I still believe such classes could exist today were teachers allowed to teach and students were allowed to learn something besides the test materials prepared by non teachers. I wish all young people a wonderful year and hope they will find just a spark of eagerness somewhere along the way.