It takes a community to truly teach

Posted: Friday, August 17, 2007

I see that our local school district is looking for substitute teachers. When I retired from teaching at the university, I went through the process of security clearance and was hired to be a substitute teacher. I never taught anything. I simply monitored a classroom while students did their homework or watched a video program. I never shared with students anything of my knowledge or experience.

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There are times, when a teacher calls in sick or there is an emergency, and the school simply needs someone to fill in for the day. But when teachers know in advance that they will be out of the classroom, then others from our community could be invited to actually teach.

Maybe it is time for the local school district to invite those many people in our community who have been teachers or have had a lifetime of experience to share with our younger generation. Native people often speak of the need for "elders" to share their knowledge and experience with their descendants. As a community, we have to do the same.

What would it do for our high school students to actually have Judge Tom Stewart in their classroom to explain how Alaska became a state and adopted our Constitution? Or for Rie Muñoz to talk about her art? Or Art Petersen talk about the role of literature in our lives? Dick Haight could explain biological and fisheries research. Perhaps someone like Dr. Bill Cole might talk about health, medicine and family practice. A host of other local people who have spent years teaching, writing, practicing their skills, could be a teacher for a day. It would be more than just a sharing of knowledge and experience; it would a way of bonding our community. Students may come to understand that "those old folks," really have something worth hearing.

If the school district truly wants substitute teachers who are more than just monitors or babysitters in a classroom, they need to seek the help of the elders of our community.

Wally Olson


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