I read with interest (and a fair amount of heartbreak) an online story that was making the news yesterday. "Teacher Writes Loser on Student's Assignments" is about how teacher Rex Roland of the Enka Middle School in Buncombe County, NC, uses what is termed as "progressive" methods to teach his students. One of those methods, according to the story, is to write "Loser" on students' papers when they miss something.
For someone who is teaching middle school, Mr. Roland doesn't seem to know much about what his students are going through. Middle schoolers say all kinds of hurtful things to each other--why should teachers join in? Kids need to be taught the power of words, and parents and teachers are the ones who should be teaching them. Kids constantly tease and criticize each other, tacking on a "just kidding" at the end of every phrase. But the damage is done. And "just kidding" doesn't go very far. Does progressive education mean getting on a peer level with the students? How could that ever work?
Words have life. They live on long after they are said--and even longer when they are written down on a piece of paper that can be stared at for hours on end. Sixth-grade girls are at a place in their lives where words hold great significance. Here's an example:
Kristie was a girl I met in middle school. She was everything I wasn’t: cute, blonde, blue-eyed, petite. She was a cheerleader, popular, and everybody wanted to be her friend. Our English class had to memorize a poem that year and recite it in front of everyone. Well, when that day came, I had to go first. Now, despite all my insecurities, I was okay to be in front of people, and I didn’t mind going first because I had worked hard on my poem. And I didn’t just say it, y’all, I performed it. I love words, and I always have, so I just really did it with gusto and a lot of flair. I got some applause at the end, but I got mostly laughter. I was embarrassed, and it seemed that class took forever that day to end. When it did, Kristie came up to me as everyone else was leaving, and she said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “You are so smart. You’re going to be something one day. You’ll be an actress or an author—I don’t know what, but you’re going to be something one day.” That simple statement didn’t cost her anything, and she probably wouldn’t even remember it, but it is something I have carried with me ever since.
Why? Because words have life.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. ~Proverbs 18:21