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Local teachers weigh in on learning barriers

ERIN JAMES
YorkDispatch

The York Dispatch asked local educators on Facebook to answer this question: What do you see as the most critical impediment to education among your students?

Here are some of their responses.

•"I've dedicated my career to working with the harder-to-reach students, the ones who don't meet with success in a 'regular ed' classroom. Thankfully I have met with success in dealing with my students because I meet them on their level, show them respect, and run my classroom with high expectations and consistency in discipline. The problems that I run into come from outside influences. My students meet with success in my room because I work with them, and when they get something wrong (academically or behaviorally) we both work together to find the solution," said Kimberly Bolt, a teacher with the intervention Cornerstone program in the York City School District.

•"The consistent connection between home and school. Both parties must be fully committed to ensure student success," said Katrina Kertzel Smeltzer, a first-grade teacher at Devers K-8 in the York City School District.

•"Parental involvement is key. It is important that parents understand how to help their children and why it's important," said Nicole Musser, a teacher at Devers K-8 in the York City School District.

•"Lack of early education before kindergarten," said Amy Updegrove Mullins, a second-grade teacher at Ferguson K-8 in the York City School District. "I also feel the transient nature of our population plays a big role in the education of the students."

•"In York City we struggle with the academic and behavioral effects of generational poverty. Not all students see that education can be a vehicle for a better life or even the possibilities of a better life," said Maggie Mafnas, a social-studies teacher at William Penn Senior High School in the York City School District.

•"The standardized tests. We end up having to cater to them instead of the students," said Laura Baum, assistant marching band director at William Penn Senior High School in the York City School District.

•"I would say 3 C's. Consistency, continuity and command. Our children are lacking in all three. I believe if you can manage these 'C's' it greatly improves your room, students and makes for a superior learning environment," said Curtis Henning, a fifth-grade teacher at Hannah Penn K-8 in the York City School District.

•"The truth is we have mass produced a system that is not designed for the majority of its participants. Instead of changing the system we are willing to medicate children at record numbers in order to have them be able to sit for seven hours a day. We blame their parents, we blame the government for underfunding, and the students for not caring. Here is what I know: Teachers make the difference. Great teachers make learning fun. They reach every child. They teach by the motto: 'It's my job, no excuses.' They create relationships with parents, they do not blame them. They invest in their own education and never feel they have mastered their craft," said Anne Clark, community outreach director for Lincoln and Helen Thackston charter schools.

•"In the world of education, there are always hurdles and obstacles to overcome. The easiest avenue is always to point fingers and place blame on factors in which a teacher often cannot control: where a student lives, whom they live with, how much money their family makes, the amount of background knowledge they come to school with. The list could go on. Regardless of where my students come from or where they choose to go in life, it is my commitment to them, that for nine months of their life, I teach them to be the best they can be and provide them with the skills to help them make the right decisions, to be kind to others, and to be respectful," said Ashley White, a kindergarten teacher at Hannah Penn K-8 in the York City School District.

•"My biggest concern about my students is that so many of them do not take school/education seriously. They are so much more interested in socializing all day long, which I believe is partially cultural, partially developmental," said Rebecca Riek, a teacher at McKinley K-8 in the York City School District. "Of course, there are students who come to learn and do all of their work and are curious and learn everything they can. And I worry about them too because their education is so impacted by the behavior of other students."

•"One, our dependance upon federal funding, which requires districts who accept the funding to administer high-stakes testing. Two, remove compulsory education and tie welfare checks to high school diplomas. Three, if a Title I school wants more parent involvement, tie student's GPA to parent welfare checks. Four, give more behavioral authority back to the classroom teacher (not the administrators)," said Rick Springer, a regular- and special-education teacher for the York City School District.