President’s Message – November 2012

Cleaning Out the Top Drawer in My Head…

(Norm Shacochis)

A few thoughts as we approach the winter months:

The new evaluation processes are a dominating topic in school system after school system. I know that there are many bugs to be worked out, many minds to be comforted, many perspectives to be woven into the actual process within any one school system. I am also acutely aware that some see this as a a job security issue. Without trying to minimize that in any way, let’s keep the positive tone I have tried to make as the hallmark of this school year – that this evaluation process remains about improving classroom performance and therefore student learning. The subcommittee I served on dealt with the improvement plan for every teacher, those who were identified with high marks as well as those who may have been assigned low marks. We help each other improve; in 40 years in the classroom, I have never stopped learning from my colleagues. This potential process remains. Be positive. Force your administration to be positive.

I realize much of that paragraph may seem to be written with rose-colored glasses but trust me, it is not written with a naive nor ignorant mindset. I realize the stakes are high, but I truly feel that if we sit and moan, if we simply get angry, if we react negatively, we escalate the exact result we most fear. By being positive, proactive, and seeking the best from the evaluation process, we help make it what it is intended to be.

As we approach the holiday period, the school year gets busy with many distractions, many of them being of a wonderful nature, but they are distractions nevertheless. Presidential and senatorial elections are finally over (Thank Goodness!) only to be replaced by shopping, religious activities, travel, social events, and all varieties of other activities found in November, December, and the beginning of January. But what happens to our classrooms?

We often find ourselves easing up a bit because many students are absent, or the in-school distractions disrupt the daily routine/schedule. However, some powerful events happened around the holidays in the past (the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor to name two significant events that come immediately to mind) and those distractions were handled in the most dire of circumstances. Surely we can handle the distractions of the season and make it all work to our advantage. What a great opportunity to try a new type of activity/lesson in your classes! That video that takes up too much of the valuable class time? – perhaps it’s a good time to use some of it when many students are absent. The school chorus and music assembly once again? Make it a time to ask students about music in their lives, in their families, in their well being.

The Elections…wow, what a powerful and lengthy impact on our society. First, I hope that everyone took the opportunity to make the elections the teachable moment that it is, and secondly, now that it is completed, let’s continue with that teachable moment. Civic education must continue beyond election time. Have students discover how their local/town government works and take a closer look at local elections to come. Take a periodic look at what the next presidential term may be like – does the newly elected or re-elected president have to make changes? As inauguration time nears, what are the procedural and constitutional limits and requirements? In short, do not let civic education be reduced to the series of annoying, endless TV ads and then a one day event.

NCSS Boston Convention November 21-23, 2014! Seems like a long way off, but yet we have already seen the early planning begin. The theme is so appropriate for a Boston setting: “Let Freedom Ring – The Civic Mission of Our Schools”. You may well be called upon to help and serve. Please be willing and join the exciting work that is to be done. The Boston Conference will be well attended because of the location, there will be many great speakers and clinics, and more exhibitors than you have ever seen!

My wishes to you all for a warm winter, a joyful holiday season no matter your celebration – Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Beautiful Kwanza! – and a healthy and bountiful New Year.