by David Safier
A simply terrific column by Sarah Garrecht Gassen in today's Star. It's about Walter Douglas Elementary in the Flowing Wells district. But really, it's about what schools and teachers and administrators and bus drivers (and secretaries and cafeteria workers and custodians, though they're not mentioned) bring to students' lives. You won't find a word about achievement and state test scores and state grades — though Flowing Wells schools tend to beat the odds in those areas. It's about the need for stability and nuturing so many kids carry around with them in their emotional backpacks, and what good schools and their staffs do to help students through what can often be very rocky childhoods.
I'm not going to quote from the column. It's a whole piece that deserves to be read from beginning to end. But I have to mention that Sarah and I share a "fantasy" she began the column with. Every elected official in Arizona should teach in a school with lots of kids living in poverty for a few weeks. If their heads aren't filled with pebbles instead of brains and their hearts aren't made of stone, they would gain a greater understanding of the fact that children need so much more than a "teach to the test" curriculum, and that teachers have very difficult jobs, especially in schools with low income students. I would expand her list of those who need some face time with students to all the pontificators who condemn lazy teachers and "failing schools" without having the slightest idea what they're talking about.
A Facebook friend linked me to an excellent column by Josh Brodesky from March, 2012, praising Flowing Wells for its attention to the little things, like keeping the school buildings open late every day and keeping the premises graffiti free, two intangibles that can help increase student achievement even though they cost the district a bit of extra money.
NOTE: This is Sarah's second column on Walter Douglas Elementary. Here's the first, in Sunday's paper. It's the kick-off of a "week-long news series on poverty [that] begins Aug. 4."