State legislative hearings have been held this week on a couple of matters that are of vital importance to the education of the children of Missouri.
One concern was the common practice of throwing beginning teachers into classrooms and letting them sink or swim. Yes, schools do have mentor programs as required by the state, but those only serve to have a veteran teacher who can offer advice to the beginner. When the bell rings, the young teachers are still on their own in the classroom with 25 to 35 students.
Bringing a teacher along slowly and letting that teacher spend a year in a classroom with another teacher, learning day by day and gradually gaining the experience and confidence needed to teach effectively seems to be the ideal solution, but, as always, that option does not appear to be financially viable.
Another concern is how the upbringing of the students is affecting learning. It appears that more and more students, many from broken homes, have not been taught proper manners and continue to cause disruptions in classrooms. This is a problem that affects veteran teachers, but it especially affects those who are new to the classroom. When teachers have to continually stop class to deal with these troublemakers, the quality of education suffers.
I don't know what solutions the legislators might offer, and most of the time they haven't shown any grasp of what actually goes on in a classroom, but I will be anxious to hear what they come up with.
One of the poorest ideas they have come up with in recent years is the Career Ladder program. I am eligible for it for the first time this year. Teachers who have been in the Missouri school system for at least five years are eligible to earn $1,500 by devoting 60 hours of their time for work, most of which should involve contact with students. The program has fostered the creation of many academic clubs for students and many solid tutoring programs. Those things are good, but the state of Missouri requires tons of paperwork to verify everything that goes on. I am fully in favor of verifying anything that is funded by taxpayer money, but, as usual, the state goes overboard.
I am also bothered by the fact that the state considers this to take care of the problem of low pay for teachers. Also, the teachers who need it the most, beginning teachers who often are devoting their time and enthusiasm free of charge, are not receiving a cent.
This kind of program is what happens when we allow state legislators, with their own political agendas, to dictate what happens in Missouri classrooms.
Donald Peckham, the Sarcoxie minister charged with two counts of felony sodomy, waived his preliminary hearing Wednesday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
His next scheduled hearing is Sept. 24.
The preliminary hearing for Michael Wells, the former Carthage R-9 Board of Education member and Carthage Police officer charged with several counts of sexual abuse and incest is scheduled for later today.
I mentioned yesterday that I would relate a few incidents that happened at newspaper awards ceremonies over the years.
One of my favorites took place in 1990 when I drove to Kansas City with Holly Sundy, Sandy Sundy, and Amy Lamb for a breakfast ceremony in which Holly became the youngest reporter (18 when she wrote them) to be honored in the Best Newspaper Column category. Among the people she beat was a columnist for a Kansas City weekly who later went on to write a well-received column for the Kansas City Star.
The state convention was being held in conjunction with the national convention that year and I was scheduled to receive my first national reporting award, for a sports feature story I wrote about the Lamar High School district champion volleyball team and how rival captains Holly Sundy and Renee Buffington had put their differences aside to lead the team to the title.
I called the day before and asked if I would be able to pick up my award when I got to Kansas City. I discovered that the award had already been mailed to Doug Davis at the Democrat...more than a month earlier. I was already working for The Carthage Press at this time. To this day, I have never seen that original award. They were gracious enough to send me a duplicate.
When we arrived in Kansas City, we discovered that a program had been printed featuring the names of all of the contest winners...except for Holly. After the incident with my award, my first thought was that Doug had sabotaged Holly so I angrily went through the hotel searching for him to confront him. I never found him and it eventually occurred to me that he probably wasn't even in Kansas City. (Good thing I didn't find him. I'm a little guy. He would have killed me.)
They did have Holly's actual award and it turned out to be a great experience.
Another great experience was at the Kansas City Press Club Heart of America Awards Banquet in 1999 when Cait Purinton was honored as the only person to ever win a writing award for the late, lamented Lamar Press. She was also the youngest person to ever win a solo award writing for a weekly. (Kari Wegener and Peggy Brinkhoff were the youngest to ever win awards in that contest when they took first place in general reporting in 1987 for work they did at the Democrat.)
The award ceremony was great. The year before when Cait joined Ron Graber, Amy Lamb, Randee Kaiser, and me at the KC Press Club Banquet, she was looking over our awards and she quietly told me, "I'm going to win one of those one day." She probably never thought it would happen just a year later.
After the ceremony, which Cait and her sister, Colleen, attended. I drove back in a pouring rain. Of course, I can't see well at night, so it was an adventure. I mistook a pole for an exit and rammed my car into it. (That's where they get the term exit pole) I was able to drive away, but I got lost and didn't get home until about 3 a.m. The next day I drove to my parents' home in Newtonia. When I started to leave a couple of hours later, I discovered I had a flat tire, and a severely damaged one at that. How I got that far I will never know.
Oh, well. More adventures later.