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Funding education a matter of priorities

August 23, 2017 Peachtown Elementary School is situated on the Wells College campus, and every year I am amused to see that I am driving just about the ugliest car on campus. First-year college students usually drive better — or at least prettier — cars than I do. I am quite certain that Wells is no different than any other residential college in this respect. I just like a good, cheap car, and I drive it until it stops, whereas most consumers like something new and shiny. As a culture, we are a little obsessed with things: nice cars, nice homes, stylish clothes, exotic foods, overstuffed furniture and the latest technology. Even families with very little discretionary income are inclined to attempt this consumerist lifestyle. The parents of my generation all lived through the Depression and World War II; they were experts at the exigencies of spartan living. They saved rubber bands and twisty ties, and folded pieces of used aluminum foil and bread bags for later use. We thought they…
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Give children time to be creative

July 26, 2017 Afternoons in the lower classroom at Peachtown Elementary (pre-K through third grade) are a little more casual than the morning academics. After lunch and an active recess, time is devoted to such things as foreign languages, art, music, stories, writing and visiting the library. Recently, in a work session to discuss the general tone of the afternoons, we spoke of “relaxed, productive, creative,” and, ultimately, a focus on aesthetics. Finding the beauty in everyday life and learning to create it may be a rapidly disappearing aspect of education. An enemy of aestheticism is the rush of contemporary life. It takes time to use all of our senses to appreciate what is before us and more time to create it ourselves. In the days of worn books, pencils, crayons and paste, children took their time to carefully practice their cursive, erasing not backspacing, drawing with fat crayons and gluing shapes with sticks dipped in pots of thick paste. A good book came with the smell of…

When choosing schools, consider your child's happiness

June 28, 2017 Most parents start thinking about long-term savings for college when their children are still toddlers. That’s a good thing. Our culture and economy place a heavy emphasis on college education, but sometimes that emphasis becomes an obsession about a future, which supplants the importance of the here and now. The lives of many high school students and their parents are dominated by the focus of getting into a “good” college. Conversely, parents considering private elementary education are often daunted by even a modest tuition payment. The contrast between decisions made for a kindergarten student and a high school senior are marked. Often, the same parents who hesitate to invest in early education are later delighted to enroll their child in a very expensive Ivy League school. Raising and educating children requires a balance between the health and happiness of a child in the moment and the anticipated outcomes for the future. The two are integrally related. A college …

The case for K-8 schools

May 3, 2017 Middle school students get a bad rap. They are stereotyped as difficult to handle and difficult to teach, but in a small multi-age school like Peachtown, we are fortunate to see so many positive qualities in this age group. My sixth- through eighth-grade classes are an absolute pleasure to teach. Certainly, one can expect moody, hormonal seventh-graders and too much idle chatter, but as a group they are eager, independent learners, with reasonably mature manners and values. Peachtown was founded as a K-6 school in 1990. A few years later, we included prekindergarten and extended through eighth grade. We’ve never regretted it. Carrying students through eighth grade is the reward for many years of teaching. Historically, elementary schools were K-8, and developmentally the eighth grade demarcation makes sense. Age 14 is one of those points in child development when a sea change in maturation occurs. Of course, anyone who has worked with teenagers knows that good judgement a…

Why procrastinating can benefit students

April 5, 2017 When I hear teachers complain that their students refuse to follow the recommended steps to complete a research project, such as using note cards, preparing outlines or creating a timeline for a project, I secretly feel sympathy for the students. I was always convinced that I had a good enough system, and I liked it. When I did comply, the entire process was an irritant to me. In retrospect, I admit there were virtues in many of the formats suggested to me, but I still feel that the fun is in the creation and the proof is in the pudding. We all have our own ways and ideas. Learning new ones is essential to broadening our perspective, but allowing students the flexibility to create a quality finished product through their own peculiar system may be just as important. One consistent element of my creative process is procrastination. I have never thought it was a virtue, just an inevitability. Procrastination, poor time management, evasive behavior — whatever you call it —…

Why procrastinating can benefit students

April 5, 2017 When I hear teachers complain that their students refuse to follow the recommended steps to complete a research project, such as using note cards, preparing outlines or creating a timeline for a project, I secretly feel sympathy for the students. I was always convinced that I had a good enough system, and I liked it. When I did comply, the entire process was an irritant to me. In retrospect, I admit there were virtues in many of the formats suggested to me, but I still feel that the fun is in the creation and the proof is in the pudding. We all have our own ways and ideas. Learning new ones is essential to broadening our perspective, but allowing students the flexibility to create a quality finished product through their own peculiar system may be just as important. One consistent element of my creative process is procrastination. I have never thought it was a virtue, just an inevitability. Procrastination, poor time management, evasive behavior — whatever you call it —…

Children should learn to cope with stress

March 8, 2017 In recent years, increasing numbers of students have transferred to Peachtown Elementary because their schools have become too stressful for them. They often come after prolonged bouts of truancy brought on by anxiety — sometimes crippling — or when school just becomes too miserable. The source of this disturbing phenomenon seems to be a confluence of factors, some obvious ones such as academic, testing and social pressures, and some less concrete. Our contemporary culture, parenting styles and expectations may also be important elements. Today’s teachers and students are pressured to teach and learn new curricula under a very tight timeline, with high-stakes testing in play. This stress inevitably affects students, not just because of the testing, but because the pace of study is accelerated, homework is unrelenting and success and failure are measured in unforgiving numbers. Middle school-age children are most vulnerable — caught in that grey area between childish rel…