This past month our H.G. Temple Alumni and Diboll PTSA celebrated Black History on Feb. 24 at the H.G. Temple Auditorium in Diboll. Diboll ISD graduate Patrice Scott was mistress of ceremony. I was very proud of her as she led the program and used Black History and great black inventors to move the program from one era to the next. The program’s key points were “Coming Together! Staying Together! Being One!” What a powerful message in this time of discontent and confusion surrounding education and other issues. Ms. Winfred Adams, director of Nursing at Angelina College challenged the audience, especially the parents, on setting high expectations for their children, she challenged the children to not forget their past. Angela Gordon ended the program by asking all of us to be the standard for children in our community. She made no reference to color, race, socioeconomic status, name etc. She simply asked the audience to be the standard for all children to follow. My wife squeezed my hand as Angela challenged all of us because she knew this went along with my idea of how to move education forward.
The point being that as parents we should set the standard for our children and not expect the school to fix every problem. Children do better in school and society when we hold them accountable and there are consequences when they do not adhere to those accountability standards. We should make sure our children are around successful adults and other children with high standards. This will help them develop a higher level vocabulary and higher level thinking skills not because of who we are but because of what they are subjected to daily at home and in their activities around our schools and community. So let me create some outside-the-box thinking with this crazy idea.
What if: Every school district would have at its disposal 10-20 sets of mentor parents/guardians available to make sure our neediest students had food and shelter along with strong morals and values. Students would spend a couple of weeks out of each month with these mentor parents. They would love unconditionally, check grades and check absentees and help mend broken hearts when things didn’t go well in a student’s daily life. They would attend school functions and offer support. And I bet someone would say, “Martel, we already have that — they’re called teachers!”
Yes, but teachers can’t always expose their students to some of the real life experiences like going on vacations, camping, hunting, fishing, swimming, swinging on a rope and landing in the river, going exploring, playing in the mud, running in the rain, building tents in the living room, picking flowers, growing a garden and catching fireflies, just to name a few. Believe me, I understand that socioeconomic factors affect this part of the education process. I’ve worked in five districts and have seen it in all of them. They were all great schools with different factors that affected them daily. The number one factor that affected the schools the most has always been the socioeconomic status of the children’s homes and the low standards that come with it.
Now before someone goes crazy and says there is no way someone would let mentor parents take care of their children — “Martel, that’s a crazy idea!” Well wake up people — it’s already happening. A segment of our current society expects schools to do this for 7-8 hours a day and solve all of the academic and social problems of today. What if we could just take the ones that are struggling the most and do it for the other 16 hours in an environment that has high standards? What a change you may see in those students and with very little money thrown at it. It would at least begin to break the cycle that we all see and know exists. Sounds pretty simple, yet it is so hard after watching it for over 25 years in the education profession. At least it is an idea, because we can’t keep waiting for the answer to come to us, we have to try something or we will keep getting the same results.
Another way of looking at it: Suppose a farmer has some land, and it’s good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice: he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn’t care. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. I’m comparing the students with the land because the student, like the land, doesn’t care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, whether it is good or bad.
Now, let’s say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand — one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds — one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land ... and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted. Remember the land, like the student, doesn’t care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants — one corn, one poison. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” And yes, most of the time children are no different!
Parents, it’s up to you to help set the standard at your house. Please help educators plant a high standard in our youth that when nurtured and watered will grow into an unbelievable crop. The majority of teachers already do it!
Gary Martel is the superintendent for Diboll ISD. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.