“Education is the sleeping pill that dreams are made of.” You never know what is truly meant when a character from the animated series “King of the Hill” rambles poetically about anything, but the three time winner of the coveted Substitute Teacher of the Year award, Peggy Hill, might have made an astute observation of what’s wrong with public education when she uttered these words.
Peggy Hill is a short-haired, big foot, culotte wearing know-it-all who attacked her job as a substitute teacher at Arlen High and Tom Landry Middle School with a gusto and sense of confidence few of us who teach rarely feel anymore. Why you ask? It’s because many “public schools and public school teachers in America are faced with large numbers of students who haven’t the slightest interest in education or in learning skills that might positively benefit their lives.”
As a retired educator who occasionally works as a substitute teacher, I am amazed at how severe the problems in public education have become in the year since I’ve been out of the classroom. Syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell said it best, “we don’t have a backlog of serious students.” In the classroom today,there is no respect for those who tirelessly prepare assignments with the intent of making learning interesting, challenging, and relevant. Teachers are no longer the adult students want to emulate; they are not the heroes for today’s youth, and that’s sad and appalling. The lack of appreciation for the act or art of learning is also disheartening. Too many young people have a negative academic attitude. They have lost sight of, and maybe this generation never saw it, the truth that education allows you not only a chance to dream, but it also helps make the dream come true. As a result of this negative attitude, our students as Mr. Sowell suggest, “come out of high school and college with diplomas and degrees, but without meaningful skills, and they are educated without acquiring any ability to fulfill their rising expectations.”
Students in our schools are literally asleep at their desk, dreaming about who knows what. Peggy Hill would probably take charge by jumping on a desk and in her illogical and incorrect Spanish wake the students up warning them of the nightmare to come; but alas, most of us are not Peggy Hill.
Subbing today as a teacher of sophomore English, Global Studies, and Economics, I can count the number of students on one hand who are actively engaged in their assignment. Just as I did as a teacher, today I tried to make the assignments left for them engaging and important; I tried to make connections with their assignment to real life opportunities and experiences; and I gave a short lecture about the importance of being faithful to learning even if the teacher was not present. But just as I did when I was a real teacher, I quickly grew tired of being ignored, argued with, and even laughed at. Conversations laced with profanity or gossip floated by when I really wanted to hear something about productivity or Of Mice and Men. I am, however, thankful that quite a few in this energetic,loud group have opted to go to sleep and do nothing. If I can’t make education an aphrodisiac, I can at least let it be a sleeping pill. I am no Peggy Hill.