Ask any teacher and they will tell you that over the course of a school year, they do a lot of learning themselves.
We just concluded a long and too often difficult school year. Blame some of it on our calendar dynamics; the Sedalia 200 district doesn’t start classes until after the Missouri State Fair’s run is done, and this year the fair was Aug. 13-23. This caused a later-than-usual start and end to the school year. One big plus was not losing any days due to weather (but actually typing that means that we likely will get 87 metric tons of snow next winter).
One of the difficult elements was the number of young lives lost in our community over the past six months. Two were Smith-Cotton seniors, others attended Sacred Heart and other schools. With so many close ties through family and friends, each passing left a significant impact on our communities, and especially on students. Still, it was heartening to see the Sedalia-area’s youth come together and support one another as each tragedy unfolded. Through all of that, I learned that our kids are resilient – much more so than we think.
This year I also learned the right way to tackle your senior year. Carlton Homan is a quality student, athlete and artist. He earned All-West Central Conference honors in football on both offense and defense, while also being an all-academic team member. He also makes some pretty cool pottery. While that would keep most students more than busy, during his senior year Homan added a few more activities, looking to make the experience as rich as possible.
Homan joined the Envirothon team and helped it secure a fourth place finish at the state competition. He went out for the baseball team, and while he didn’t play a lot, he did get to spend more time with good friends. He also took to the stage for the first time, performing in the spring drama “A Piece of My Heart.” If any student is looking for a blueprint for getting the most out of their last year of high school, they should start with Homan.
I learned a hard lesson about pettiness. No details here, but suffice it to say that it is an experience I will not permit to be repeated. I also was reminded that there are at least two sides to every story, and that volume doesn’t automatically equal truth.
As much as I hate to say it, this school year also reminded me that no matter how much I want a student to succeed, if they are not willing to put in the work needed to reach the goal then I am mostly powerless to help them. As teachers, we do what is within our abilities to help students understand lessons and their applications. In the end, however, students have to do the work.
I learned that something as simple as a photograph can make a parent’s week, that a message home providing a head’s up about an out-of-the-ordinary poor score on an assignment reduces stress for all involved and that given an opportunity to lead, students will step up to deliver a project on time and in fine form.
There is another lesson – I learned it before this year, but it was reinforced by some of my students over the 2015-16 school year. To quote the philosopher Kid President, “You guys are pretty awesome.” Our students are driven by academics, commitment to service and the will to improve the human condition. Spend some time with them, ask them what they want for their world. The depth of their answers might surprise you. You certainly will learn a few things.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.