I attended a school board marathon meeting on Monday night. I’m serious, this thing lasted, like, four hours.
One of the agenda items was a presentation by Kim Harmon, director of student services for the Fort Madison Community School District and curriculum guru.
It was a tough presentation and Harmon took some heat from the board for what, in a nutshell, was student performance at the K-6 level.
Board Director Brad Menke went so far as to say that Harmon said our teachers are not good enough. The comment was rightly received with disgust by many board members and Harmon.
I compared Menke to a bass drum in a flute room. He really is. Brad says what’s on his mind at these meetings and it’s refreshing, but it stings sometimes.
I think the comment was made by a frustrated board member and was not meant to be engrossed in the way it was said. However, it does give a break.
Of course, we don’t think our teachers aren’t good enough. It’s a tough gig and I’m not talking about it wrong. I have three public school teachers in my immediate family and I regularly hear the stories.
And we cannot forget the overhaul of collective bargaining and the deterioration of relations between the state of Iowa and its respective teacher unions.
But the big picture and the blame fall directly on the pandemic, in our view.
The pandemic has created a learning environment close to the worst learning environment imaginable. Virtual learning just didn’t work. I tried to sit in a virtual classroom when the schools were completely closed.
No student showed up to the class. But they were volunteers, and I was told that even though they were volunteers, because not everyone had reliable internet access, students were participating at a rate of about 60%. No student showed up to the class. The teacher was clearly embarrassed and we spoke briefly, then I politely stepped aside.
I have spoken in writing and journalism classrooms before and I know and can sense when there are distractions and there are distractions for teachers. In other words, it is quite difficult when you are teaching in person.
Now try to imagine teaching modules to an 8 year old child who is sitting in his room, or at the coffee table, or at the kitchen table, with 20 other students doing the same. People, like my dad used to say all the time, this dog doesn’t hunt.
So not only was it extremely difficult for teachers and students, but now the modules, or in my daily chapters, that they were supposed to learn a year and a half ago are being revisited. During this time, students are expected to learn more advanced modules in accordance with a typical grade system.
Think about it. These kids are essentially a year and a half behind, and unless they do a 12 hour school day, it will be extremely difficult to break out of that cycle.
Add to that the current teacher shortage and the extreme shortage of special education teachers and we have a boiling pot that won’t stop with a wooden spoon. (Yeah, it really works by the way).
I’m a journalist, and now a grants writer and student of ARPA funds, and with a retired teacher and two current teachers in the family, I still have no idea how to get you out of this mess. If you are a physical education teacherâ¦ good choice.
I have been wholeheartedly with all of the teachers in our coverage area when I saw this advice move about our children and how we will serve them better. I saw parents cry as the district considered using a virtual special education service because they just couldn’t find teachers.
Menke, rubbing his forehead and shaking his head, said the district needs to listen to its people to resolve some of these issues, actually raising their voice several times and asking, “Are we listening to what our people are telling us.”
It’s a tough environment for the district, it’s a tough environment for a board that is passionate about its mission statement and vision to ensure that all students have the resources they need to prepare for life afterwards. secondary school.
And it’s tough on families, many of whom are still in economic shock from the pandemic, which, oh by the way … is still here. So, not only is the district grappling with the curriculum, but also with finding teachers, special education teachers and keeping a very watchful eye for a painful virus.
Social and emotional learning is also prominent and strained by the impact the virus has had on this aspect of everyday learning. Add to all that a few stats from Fort Madison Junior High School principal Pat Lamb that most college students would rather face social bullying than give up their Facebook platform or that one in five students have to. at some point thought of a plan to engage. suicide.
There has never been a more important time to have the backs of our teachers, educators and administrators. We may not be happy with all the decisions that have been made in the past, but now is not the time to point fingers. We have strong, solid candidates running for three positions on the Fort Madison School Board.
The Fort Madison Education Association hosted a three-hour forum on Thursday night and they endorsed Menke, Mio Santiago and Paul Wilkerson among candidates also including incumbent Brian Steffensmeier and newcomers David Allen, Aleena Garr and Jadi Zioui. .
This election, and it’s said almost every cycle, but given all of the aforementioned issues facing our educators at all levels, this election could be one of the most important school board elections in decades.
And speaking of schools, if you get the chance, Central Lee officials have done a miraculous job with $ 13 million to create a learning space with enhanced security, sports spaces and fine arts. . if you get the chance, go out to see this place. You won’t believe how well they did with what really doesn’t seem like that much money anymore.
But that’s beside the point.