Friday, October 31, 2014

Thoughts on Public Education

Horace Mann is quoted as saying, “The public school is the greatest discovery made by man.” I don’t know if this is true or not, but I certainly believe public education is vitally important to the history, and future, of mankind.  A plaque in the Library of Congress reads, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”  Public education plays a vital role in a community, state, and a nation. The older I grow the more I believe in the importance of public education.  I have witnessed countless people’s lives enhanced by public education. Many people who have disdain for public education owe a debt of gratitude for their education although they do not recognize the impact of their education on their lives.

I have seen people succeed without an education, but I have never heard someone say they wish they had quit school, or had less education. I have heard adults cry while telling a child who is about to quit school that they didn't want them to make the same mistake they made by quitting school. I have witnessed parents beg their child not to quit school, but I have never witnessed a parent tell a child they quit school and were glad.

I have witnessed numerous people have productive and happy lives without a good education. They persevered by hard work, intelligence, and a never quit attitude despite a formal education. I think educators do a disservice and frankly are dishonest if we ever imply that an education guarantees wealth or happiness. There are no guarantees in life, but most civilized societies value an education and most tyrants fear an educated society.

I am not saying that public education is perfect and private schools and/or home schools certainly have their place.  However, in my opinion, in order to effectively educate society as a whole I truly believe in the value of public education. One of the wisest men I have ever known (my grandfather) only finished seventh grade. He quit to work on the family farm and his education served him well for his chosen lifestyle. He gave his first grandson to attend college some great advice as he was going off to college, “Son if you take a smart man and educate him you have a great thing, but if you take a fool and educate him you have an educated fool.” I have never forgotten that advice. Certainly an education will not make one wise but wisdom with knowledge is a powerful combination. 

As a school community we must constantly remind others the importance of public education. We must be our own advocates and we should not expect others to value what we do if we do not tout its value. In my opinion, public education is at a crossroads and without strong voices it could soon become a relic of a bygone time. Like everything, public education has changed through the years and the change has grown increasingly swift in the last few years. Some of the changes are exciting and hold great potential, but we must all work to ensure positive changes for the institution that has such a dramatic impact on something as precious as the lives of our children. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hunter's Highlights

Ardmore High School is always proud to help the Melissa George Foundation which supports the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Huntsville Hospital. Playing for Preemies was started by Mr. Rusty Bates, when he was assistant principal and athletic director at Ardmore. Rusty and his wife Kristen had their daughter Lauren at Huntsville Hospital. Lauren was born prematurely and spent several weeks in the NICU at Huntsville Hospital. Rusty and Kristen noticed the beds were furnished by the Melissa George foundation and vowed to help raise money. Every year t-shirts are sold and students at Johnson, Cedar Hill and Ardmore buy chances to Pie the Principal to help raise money. This year the students at the three schools will have raised over $20,000 in a five year period.

Our 6th and 7th grade students attended the Storytelling Festival in Athens. I heard from everyone that the performers didn’t disappoint and our students seemed to have a good time. It is important for our students to be exposed to as many experiences as possible to enhance their education. We are very fortunate our students have the opportunity to attend the event and we hope we are able to do this in the future.

Our chemistry students celebrated Mole Day this week. No we are not talking about the ugly, little, furry creatures that burrow in your yard. What is a mole you ask, well it is defined as, ” The quantity of anything that has the same number of particles found in 12.000 grams of carbon-12..” The exact definition may not make a lot of sense to most of us but think of a mole as simply a unit of measurement used when other units such as grams would be more difficult to use. A mole is also known as Avogadro’s number but Mole sounds better. Enough chemistry for the day, our students had a party to celebrate mole day and funny (or corny) jokes were place over the school to celebrate Mole Day. What is a mole joke you may ask, well here is an example, “Where did Avogadro stay on is vacation? A mole-tel. I told you they were corny but we want to extend a special thanks to Mrs. Tolen for teaching our chemistry classes and making Mole Day a great learning experience for our students.

Mrs. Hobbs’s classes took a Field trip to Redstone Arsenal this week. Students were given an opportunity to hear about many different types of careers. These classes have taken a couple of trips and others are planned. It is great for students to hear from as many people as possible the careers they have the opportunity to pursue. Alabama is trying to make sure every graduate is college and career ready and this is one way Ardmore High School tries to make sure our students are ready for the world after school. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Most things in life are seen through the prism of one’s experiences. Most situations we encounter we judge based upon our own perspective. In schools, students, parents, teachers, bus drivers, custodians, and administrators have their own perspective on school issues. Every issue may seem very clear cut to one person and another person may see them very different based upon their own perspective.

The key to helping each other is to understand the perspective of the other person. Sometimes we may still disagree, but it helps to understand why the other person views a particular situation differently than we do. One example that many people have differing opinions and perspectives concerns homework. Many teachers, especially math teachers, see homework as a crucial component of the students’ education. Spending time studying and trying to complete problems on their own allows teachers to see where students struggle, therefore allowing them to help the students more effectively. However, many parents see homework as an additional burden in an already busy schedule. Many parents believe school work should be done at school and work assigned outside school is cutting in on their family time. While it is true that the two sides may not agree on the homework issue, understanding the perspective of each other may establish some common ground. Both parents and teachers want the student to receive a quality education, but opinions may differ as to the best way to accomplish this outcome.  The ways to achieve the goal may be different but if we are both striving for the same goals we may be more tolerant of the other view point.

The homework example is just one example of how perspective skews our way of thinking. For people such as me that have worked their entire lives in a school, things that seem very normal may seem very strange to those who have not worked in a school. Just like any job, we do not truly understand how things work behind the scenes until we do the job. We all have friends and family that work in institutions with which we have regular dealings. Sometimes after having things explained to us, many things make much more sense than they did on the surface. The only answer to solving many of the world’s problems is effective communication.

Our school has many tools to communicate with parents such as Twitter, e-mail, Remind, and the website just to name a few. Unfortunately, many of these methods are one way communication which do not allow parents to speak back with us. We sometimes administer surveys which a very small percentage of parents decide to take but the surveys do give us some feedback. Many times we are asked questions at school functions and despite what many people believe, we do not hate questions. Actually we had rather answer a question than for rumors to spread that are grossly inaccurate. I recently heard of a rumor that the principal decides which classification our school is in terms of athletics. For example the principal decided to move us to 5A from 4A. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but somehow this rumor had started. I only heard about this rumor after a grandparent asked a board member about the issue at a ball game. This is an example of miscommunication and the school having no idea of the misinformation that existed.

Our school officials, we rely on parents and community members to be our ears when it comes to school matters. We truly want questions from the parents and community because we want our supporters to know the truth and not false information. Any organization struggles with public misinformation and perception and schools are no exception. We will continue to try and make ourselves more accessible and hopefully working together we can improve the communication between home and school.

We constantly look for ways to improve parental input, but we know everyone is very busy and attending formal activities may be difficult. We have tried things such as “Breakfast with the Principal” but only two parents signed up so we discontinued the program. I know that parents have a perspective that school workers do not have. We want to listen to our parents but are constantly looking for a method to make it convenient for parents to provide the feedback. We encourage our parents to call, e-mail, or come by and see us when you have an idea that you may think could improve our school.