Community rallies for grieving family

Guest blog by Shawn Watson, Social Studies Teacher, Eastern Alamance HS

When considering how the six virtues have affected my school, I am led to the story of one of our students from a few years back. This young man was full of life. He always had a smile on his face — just a great kid to be around.

He loved athletics and was a member of our football and lacrosse teams. He was not the most talented player, but he loved being around classmates and coaches.

During his junior year the young man had a severe seizure and became extremely sick. He was in and out of the hospital, but the doctors could not figure out what was wrong. He eventually fell gravely ill and died. During the entire time he and his family never lost their love for our school and community. They were the epitome of dedication.

The bill for their son’s treatments was huge. It was at this time that generosity went in motion. Our school and community set up countless drives and donation centers to raise money for the family. Our students sold wrist bands at ball games, had charity walks, cupcake sales, and so forth.

I am not sure if the family was able to pay the whole debt, but I am sure the efforts of our students helped. That is what generosity is all about. The community rallied around a family that needed help. Generosity is a key virtue.

Improving schools is difficult. Don’t make it complicated.

A must-read for school personnel is Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal’s Reframing Organizations (RO). It uses clear language to explain an idea that is so simple it can be remembered and applied in even the most complex, hectic, school situations. When applied to schools, the theory behind RO is that educators acquire a full understanding of school situations by looking at them through four different “frames:” (1) structural, (2) human relations, (3) political, and (4) symbolic.

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A Standards Satire

The following satire was rejected by one editor who said, “It’s not funny.”  At first I was disappointed. I thought I had failed as a satirist because he was right — it’s not funny in the sense of being hilarious. (It was later accepted for publication in The School Administrator, February, 2004).

Then I remembered enjoying Jonathan Swift as an English major.  He was a classic satirist, but his works never made me laugh or think, “This is hilarious!”

So, be warned — this satire is not funny (although astute readers will find word plays and political commentary). In fact I even describe the ending as sad. But, if you know the history of American public education, the whole piece is sad because you know that its silliness is no more silly than today’s educational politics.

See No Child’s Left Behind (A Standards Satire)

Many are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” An emperor was duped by scoundrels who claimed they could weave the finest clothing in the world. The key to their scheme was convincing the Emperor that their magic cloth was visible only to those who were not fools or incompetents. They got rich by demanding gold and fine fabrics, which they kept for themselves, while weaving nothing.

The first of the double ironies at the end of the story was that the Emperor, not wanting to be considered a fool or an incompetent, and believing he was wearing fine clothes, paraded naked down Main Street — proving himself to be an incompetent fool. The second irony was that the adults, hoping not to be seen as fools, denied the obvious, proving themselves to be fools, too. Only a small child had the sense to say, “He’s got nothing on.”

The following story tells what happened many years, later, in a federal republic of fifty empires, each with its own emperor. These emperors knew their ancestor had been tricked by scoundrel weavers, so they were wary of weavers. They rarely associated with any, and didn’t seek their advice about clothing. Nevertheless, the prime responsibility of each empire, was to provide citizens with an equal clothing opportunity.
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