“Education is the sleeping pill that dreams are made of.” It’s hard to know what is meant when a character from the animated series “King of the Hill” rambles on poetically about anything, but I believe that the three time winner of Arlen’s coveted Substitute Teacher of the Year award, Peggy Hill, might have made an astute observation about the problem of education in our public schools.
Peggy Hill is a short-hair]ed, big foot, culotte wearing know-it-all who attacked her substitute teaching assignments at Arlen High and Tom Landry Middle School with a gusto and sense of confidence few of us who teach rarely feel anymore. Even though she has taught Spanish, a language she was not fluent in, and took on the sex education class when no one else would, she was determine to get the job done even if it meant making a fool of herself in the process. Teaching was the thing. As a substitute teacher, I am no Peggy Hill.
As a retired educator who on occasions works a s a substitute teacher, iI marvel at how things have changed in the year that I have been out of the classroom. It seems, if I can borrow from syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell ,that we don’t have a backlog of serious students.” The lack of respect for those who tirelessly work to prepare assignments that are designed to make learning interesting and challenging is sad and appalling. The lack of appreciation for the act or art of learning is disheartening. Today’s students seem complacent, callous, indifferent, and disinterested in the free access they have to education. They have lost sight of, and maybe this generation never saw it, the truth that education allows you not only to dream but it also helps make the dream come true. And as a result of this disinterest, 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.”
Many students are asleep at their desk, dreaming about who knows what. Peggy Hill would probably jump on a desk and say same something extremely stupid in her broken and illogical Spanish to wake them up and warn them of the nightmare to come; but, alas, I am no Peggy Hill.
I am subbing today teaching English II, Global studies, and Economics. I can count the number who are serious about the class and their assignments on one hand. And just as I did when I was a teacher, I’ve tried to make the assignments left for them engaging and important. I even gave my speech when they got a little rowdy about the importance of education and how it separates the haves from the have-nots. I even tried to make a connection with their class assignment to real life opportunities and experiences. Just as I did when I was a “real” teacher, I quickly grew tired of being ignored, argued with, and occasionally laughed at. So again today as I sub, I sheepishly must admit that i wish I had a class of students who really cared about Economics or Of Mice and Men. I wish I could hear snippets of conversations that weren’t laced with profanity or gossip. But I am thankful that some in this energetic bunch that the teacher warned me about are quiet or better yet asleep. If I can’t make education an aphrodisiac, I can at least let it be a sleeping pill. I am no Peggy Hill.