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Some lessons can’t be learned at home, local educators say

School desk, Photo Date: 1/23/2017 / Photo: PxHere / (MGN)
School desk, Photo Date: 1/23/2017 / Photo: PxHere / (MGN)
Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 5:25 PM CDT
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The tens of thousands of Central Texas student who’ve been out of school for more than a month, particularly those in the primary grades, may be keeping up with their studies at home, but they’re missing out on other important lessons that have nothing to do with academics.

“Those times spent sitting in their desks in a classroom and taking part in the school experience are essential as they learn how to participate, and how to get along with others and they learn what’s expected of them,” said Mary Duty, a retired teacher who spent more than 30 years in classrooms in the Waco Independent School District and whose daughter teaches elementary students today.

“The academics, of course, are the most important and that’s the reason we teach in the first place, but the first thing young children have to be taught to begin with is how to learn,” Duty said.

“And that’s what they learn in the early days in the classroom.”

Waco ISD physical education teacher Pam Fisher works with students ranging in age from Pre-K to 5th Grade and she sees how acclimation to the classroom experience is exposed as they progress into higher grades.

“It’s easy to see the one who learned how to act in the classroom and get along with their classmates,” Fisher said.

“But even on the best days and in the best situations, it’s repetition that teaches the basics.

“I worry about these kids who are currently being homeschooled,” said Marquita Lankford, who’s been retired from the classroom for longer than she taught.

Lankford, 88, of West, taught in the WISD for 29 years, mostly at Alta Vista Elementary, said that in early years students learn to negotiate the maze of personalities and systems they’ll need to exploit during their journey to success in school and in adult life, and they begin learning that in the classroom.

“That interaction between young students is essential in forming their attitudes about education as they move on,” she said.

“The classroom instills structure and students need that structure to be successful in school and in life,” Lankford said.

“I start every day like it was their first day in my class,” Fisher said.

“It doesn’t matter and whether (students) were off for Christmas break or just for the weekend, (teachers) assume they forgot all that stuff they learned already and start every day like it was their first.”

That, she said, is her secret recipe for helping her students return to normality once the fear has passed.

She teaches about 400 students, 25 at a time, and said Friday the worst part for her is “I miss them terribly.”

“I think we need to stop worrying about school and lesson plans and classwork, shut school down until August and worry about protecting our kids and ourselves,” Fisher said.

“Mr. Perry’s (referring to Phillip Perry, 49, principal of Waco’s G.W. Carver Middle School) death did it for me,” she said.

Perry, earlier this week, was first to die in McLennan County of an issue associated with the COVID-19 virus.

“We need to stop all this fooling around, hug our kids and our family and forget about school until August.”

Texas schools will remain closed at least until May 4, under an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott.

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