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Problem with students is general 'disregard for respect, discipline'

Aug 22, 2013 - Dennis Heckart, Riverton


Two stories on the front page of the Aug. 14 Rangers caught my eye: "Slide in Riverton PAWS scores reflects statewide trend; causes under study," and "CWC to trim remedial course offerings."

This letter is not intended to be an indictment of my alma mater, RHS, and in fact the PAWS article refers to "statewide lower scores." However, I do have some observations --gained from my brief stint as a substitute teacher. Over a period of 14 months, I taught at Riverton high school, middle school, alternative school, and Shoshoni High School (excellent school, in my opinion).

During that time, I subbed for 12 to 15 teachers -- probably about 150 days.

Some observations:

Generally, I did not have problem students, and my overall experience was rewarding. Most students were interested, polite and fun. However, let me mention some incidents, which support my theory on the failure of our educational system. As a fair aside, most of the teachers are dedicated, great people. Their teaching materials and resources are are superb. Although PAWS is for younger ages, I expect that the lower score trend continues on through high school.

First of all, there is minimal discipline in the classroom. Students talking, throwing books, lying on the floor, sitting on the desk, and having group chats during class, texting, etc.

Example: I taught for one teacher at RHS for one day. Six periods of total chaos. One, class was to take a test. One young lady said "I don't want to take the test." I replied, "well just put your name on the paper and write a little note to your teacher saying I don't want..." She looked at me like I was crazy. I left the teacher a note: "Please don't invite me back to deal with your rude students."

And do you know we have "school resource officers"? That's politically correct speak for "armed cop." Are you kidding me? In the old days --sorry --Mrs. Mote would give you a look and you would shape up.

No respect --teachers are called by their last names: Mrs. Kirkland is just "Kirkland."

English, math and grammar skills are sorely lacking. "Can me and Sally go to the library?" I said "What?" He repeated: Can me and..." I repeated "What?" Finally a student standing nearby said "He's not deaf --the proper is May Sally and I?"

Many students were not at all focused. This seemed to be a social hour to them. Math and penmanship were weak, and speaking skills often were lacking.

So my theory becomes: Our problem in schools today is a disregard for respect, discipline and proper demeanor, and the lack of a reasonably high expectations for students. We are not doing Johnny any favors by sending him along to the next grade when he cannot perform basic math skills or put together a simple sentence.

Therefore, the problem gets dumped in the lap of Central Wyoming College and other colleges. "Remedial course offerings" means providing Johnny with "developmental skills" so he can learn in college what he should've learned in high school.

Why should the college feel responsible for using time, money and resources to bring Johnny up to speed? As Dr. JoAnne McFarland, president of CWC, said, "We need to, ideally, eliminate the need for developmental education altogether." Note the last word in that sentence.

Trustee Colton Crane said, "The percentage of students during these catch-up courses is not going down --it's going up a bit." That speaks volumes.

The two resulting questions are: "What's happening to our primary and secondary schools?" And "Why is the college expected to bring Johnny up to speed when the previous 12 years of schooling have failed?"

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