Life Notes: Education
by Rick Sutton, Director of Education

I grew up in the rolling hills of Claiborne Parish and attended Haynesville High School. I went to school in the fifties and sixties. I had a great respect for teachers, coaches, and principals. In fact, I even wanted to be like them and help influence young people the way these people influenced me. I wish that every young person had the opportunity to grow up in a community that was as supportive of the school and the education process as I did.

As an educator, I am often asked what is wrong with our education system today and how can we fix it? In answer to the first question, I believe that our schools are a reflection of our society. The problems we see in school are a lot of the same problems we see with society. I believe that, generally speaking, my generation is largely responsible.

In many cases our work ethic has changed; our respect for those in authority has, in many cases, turned to disrespect; our moral values have been compromised; and our sense of dedication and responsibility appear to have changed for the worse as well. All of these began to change noticeably in the 1960’s. These changes are reflected in our students, parents, and unfortunately, some of our educators.

What can we do to fix the problem? Let’s briefly address the educators. Higher pay would allow us to keep some of the quality teachers from leaving to go to other neighboring states. Please understand, we still have many teachers that are dedicated to the teaching profession and their students, but we need to do a better job of keeping new teachers. One possibility that might help teacher recruitment would be college scholarships or loans that require the recipient to teach in the state from five to seven years.

I do believe that some very positive steps have been made to improve teacher skills with the new accountability standards required by the state and federal governments. All teachers and schools will be assessed as far as performance. I believe that the “No Child Left Behind” program, although sometimes irritating for educators, will improve schools in Louisiana overall.

Further, if we are to improve our school systems, we must begin with ourselves. We need to be involved as both a parent and a community member. I mentioned at the beginning of the article that Haynesville was a great community to grow up in. However, community pride in the schools and support for education was certainly not limited to Claiborne Parish. Lincoln Parish has always had a similar reputation. Each person needs to do his part to continue to make this community a better place to live and in which to attend school. Indeed, it does take a community to raise a young person.

As a community member, we might ask ourselves these questions. Am I modeling the correct behavior for the youth that are watching? Do I take an interest in the young people in the community and help them when I can? Generally, I believe young people want to do well. They want clearly defined boundaries, and when they test boundaries, they need an adult to be fair and consistent with them. Everyone needs to know people care but especially young people need to know people care as they go through the growing process.

I love working at Methodist Children’s Home. This is more than a job; it is a ministry. We are dedicated to helping young people. We try to teach them respect by respecting them. Children deserve respect as well as adults. We try to teach values and give direction to their lives. We try to show them love so that they can learn to love others. We try to give them a sense of self-worth by showing them they are special. I would encourage everyone to treat young people the way we wanted to be treated at their age. If we want a better education system, then we need to be better parents, better educators, and better community members.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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