Monday, May 25, 2009

Time to say, "Good-bye!"

I've really been struggling with this blog lately. The enthusiasm just hasn't been there, and I've felt like I'm just saying the same things over and over again. What makes it worse is that my Catholic conscience works on me, and makes me feel guilty when I don't post at least once a week or check on the comments as often as I should. Yesterday, I went to church, and our priest talked about Memorial Day being a time for good-byes. It occurred to me that it's time for this blog to say good-bye. Unlike Douglas MacArthur, I don't want to just fade away. I've always found it depressing when I've gone to check out other blogs that I've read, and there hasn't been a post for a week, then a month, then several months. If I'm going to end this, I want to end it with an exclamation point. In doing that, however, I want to give voice one more time to some of those points I've tried to make over the last three years. So here goes!

I firmly believe that public schools in America are doing a better job than they're given credit for. Oh, we have our flaws--there's no question about that, and I've written about a number of them. When I say we are doing are doing a good job, however, I base that on two basic points.

First of all, in the great majority of public schools around the nation, any kid who really wants a good education can get one. Our schools in Warroad are probably about average--maybe a little above--and it is very clear that our kids are getting what they want. The kids who don't give a rip don't get very much out of it, but the kids who want to go to a vo-tech are able to do that, and the kids really want to get prepared for college are able to do so. Our district's schools have failed our AYP in math for the last two years, and judging from our junior class, I'm guessing we will again this year. Yet, I recently talked to a 2007 graduate who is in pre-med, and he didn't have to take any math in college because of all the "college in the classroom" credits he was able to gain in our "failing" school. As I've said before, I have three sons who also graduated from Warroad. One of them is very bright, but the other two are apples who didn't fall far from the tree. All three of them went to college, all three graduated from college, and all three have good jobs in the fields they graduated from today. And believe me, the success my kids have enjoyed is not unique in Warroad, and it is not unique among kids who have graduated from public schools across the nation.

The biggest problem in American public education today is that so many kids don't put much effort into their own education. Some kids are incredibly lazy and irresponsible, and that problem is combined with the fact that the American public does not want to put too much emphasis on school in general and academics in particular. And that leads to my second point: American public schools are giving American parents what they want.

Bill Gates and other business gurus can complain all they want, and say that American schools should be turning out more academic wizards. I'm not saying they're wrong, but that is not what the American public wants. The American public wants their kids to be "well-rounded." That means they want them get some academics, but they also want schools to enable their kids to be be sports stars, and/or work part-time jobs, and to be able to go on family vacations that last a week or more during the school year, and have homecoming and frosty-fest coronations and pep rallies during the school day, and use class time to vote for kings and queens and other things, and to be able to miss a day or two here and there for various other reasons and still get decent grades. Bill Gates might not like it, and sometimes I might not like it, but we are "public" schools, so it's our job to give the public what it wants. And that's what we do.

Finally, my last post wouldn't be complete if I didn't harp on the subject I've harped on more than any other. As good as public education is, it could be so much better. Public school teachers and principals need more power to demand better effort and behavior from our students. The bottom line on that is that it has to be easier to kick kids out.

I know how harsh that sounds, but it really isn't. Believe it or not, I am not an old curmudgeon. In fact, I think it's fair to say that I'm one of the most popular teachers in our school. But 35 years as a teacher and coach has taught me that kids understand limits. Make it clear to them that a certain level of behavior and a certain level of effort is required and there will be very few who will have to be shown the door. And for those who are shown the door, allow them to come back and try again next semester or next year if they finally realize that their education matters. I have seen too many bright kids allowed to get by with performing miserably, and I've even seen some end up dropping out because we were so damned tolerant.

Hey, it's been fun! And just because I'm shutting down this blog, that doesn't mean I won't be visiting yours. You never know, maybe I'll get the itch again and open up another blog, and heck, there's no law saying that I can't come back sometime and post on this one again if the spirit moves me. After all, Stephen King announced his retirement a few years ago, and it seems to me I've read two or three books that he's written since then. In any case, thanks to all of you who stopped by now and then to read my pearls of wisdom, and especially to those of you who left comments. You are the ones who made this fun.

38 Comments:

Blogger Amerloc said...

Thanks for the time and energy you've put into this, Dennis. Your reasonable voice will be missed.

I agree that it's difficult to find yet another way to phrase what one believes. At some point it begins to feel Sisyphean.

Good luck to you, and thanks again.

5/25/2009 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Ian H. said...

Sorry to see you go, Dennis, but I know you've got a lot on your plate.

Thanks for writing as long as you did - I'm pretty sure I read all of your posts, and even when you repeated something you said before, it never felt stale.

Good luck in whatever you choose to do to keep defending public schools - there's lots of us who believe the same way you do!

5/25/2009 1:20 PM  
Blogger JeffW said...

No. Say it ain't so. I have enjoyed the ride. No one know schools AND hockey like you.

Best wishes!

5/25/2009 1:31 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

Best to you, Dennis!

5/25/2009 2:03 PM  
Blogger three of clubs said...

Thank you. Best of luck,

5/25/2009 5:37 PM  
Blogger Liz Ditz said...

Dennis, I'll miss your company and your point of view -- which I think is invaluable.

The American"public school system" isn't -- in other words, what is true in a low income Silicon Valley district (teaching in the 408) is nothing like a rural midwest district, which is nothing like....

well, you get my drift.

Mostly, politically, I'm libertarian -- until it gets to public education.

Without public education supported by parents and non parents, democracy founders.

I'm a life-long Californian. There was then a good reason for Prop. 13 -- retired folk were being taxed out of their homes. But Prop 13 wasn't restricted to owner-occupied single-family dwellings -- it included apartment complexes and commercial properties.

There's the rub.

5/25/2009 6:44 PM  
Blogger Cory Harris said...

Dennis,

While I only commented a few times, know that I enjoyed all of your posts. As a young teacher (4 years experience; taking a little hiatus to do full-time grad school but heading back in in 2010), you've said more correct and insightful things than any textbook I've read or any developmental meeting I've endured. So thank you for all your input and when I retire I hope to have had as much impact and good sense as you have.

Best to you and your family. However, I certainly won't complain if you come back.

Cheers,

Cory

5/25/2009 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Jude said...

Wow. Weird. As one who has killed more than one of my blogs, I can tell you that I always end up starting another one. Your blog has been important to me in part because you're the only one saying it. Thanks for that.

5/25/2009 8:04 PM  
Blogger mazenko said...

Dennis,

As I was starting my blog, I discovered yours, and you have been an inspiration. You were the first to post a link to my blog, and I was truly honored by the support.

There have many great posts and discussions on your site, and I will miss that banter and your insight. Your views on education are spot-on, and while the blogosphere will lose an important commentator, you will continue to make great contributions to the world of public education.

Do make sure you visit the blogosphere from time to time. Your are a wise and valued voice.

All the best.

Michael

5/26/2009 6:45 AM  
Blogger Luke said...

May you be blessed and find joy in the other things you do. And hopefully we will see you around the blogosphere at some point, unless, of course, you're doing much greater things elsewhere [smile].

~Luke

5/26/2009 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Zeke said...

I wondered if you were running out of steam. Thanks for several years of stimulating comments!

As I said when I retired from 39 years of teaching, it is better to go when at least a few people say "Damn!" than stay so long that folks say "About damn time!"

Enjoy your teaching and coaching and keep holding kids to high expectations with a dash of humanity!

5/26/2009 3:32 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Wow! Thank you all for the comments. And Zeke, you have echoed my own thoughts quite well! (It is better to go when at least a few people say "Damn!" than stay so long that folks say "About damn time!") I've got to remember that one!!!

5/26/2009 5:36 PM  
Blogger Tressa said...

I have enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for the insight into the schools. I haven't always agreed with you, but you have always done a much better job at articulating your points without slamming other methods of education. For that I will miss your blog.

Best wishes!

5/28/2009 7:56 AM  
Blogger Magical Mystical Teacher said...

Sometimes one needs a break from blogging. However, I hope you come back sometime in another form.

5/28/2009 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Clare said...

I'm really going to miss your blog. I've been appreciating your insights, observations, and common sense for more than a year now. Thank you.

5/31/2009 5:31 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Tressa, MMT, and Clare, I apologize for not responding sooner, but I haven't checked back for a while. Thank you all for your kind words!

6/05/2009 8:58 AM  
Blogger Matthew K. Tabor said...

Happy trails, Dennis - your voice will be missed. There's too little common sense in this sector.

6/17/2009 7:52 PM  
Blogger OldeWorldeMe said...

Now you should have some extra time to read a good book....look for one in the mail. I figure a history buff would enjoy somehting timely in subject...based on little known events...something that shaped the creation of America, initiated the American Revolution, provided the opportunity for the Louisiana purchase...I could go on, but I am giving too much away.

Enjoy a good read!

7/31/2009 8:48 AM  
Anonymous jenn said...

wow, write a book please!
It's been wonderful reading your blog. you'll be missed

8/20/2009 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Judy Jacob said...

I have been following your blog for sometime... though this is my first comment here.

Thought would drop by and send you this site for your opinion before I start using it with my class.

10/14/2009 4:06 AM  
Blogger 那ㄟ安呢 said...

thank u........................................

3/05/2010 5:03 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Your blog is nice I get lots of information about education from here.

Thanks for that !

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3/08/2010 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Amit said...

yes Time to say, "Good-bye!" ..but i am going check your updates on blog.great job Dennis.


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3/18/2010 3:28 AM  
Anonymous Justin said...

Hey Dennis.

That's an excellent work !

Great Stuff

Keep it Up

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3/29/2010 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Amit said...

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4/22/2010 9:58 PM  
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5/04/2010 3:16 AM  
Anonymous mba india said...

The posts so far have been great - hoping for some more.

5/13/2010 11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Ferm a senior this yr....9th grade year i never did so well in ur class but times when i have been asked questions corresponding to the material it has come back maybe better then when i learned it. Well needless to say finding this sight has inspired me just on how passionate of a teacher you are. It makes me wanna not just be a kid who slides though school to keeps the parents happy but to succed in school and life.

7/18/2010 8:20 PM  
Anonymous nisha said...

You got so many points here, that's why i love reading your blog. Thank you so much!
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8/03/2010 9:41 PM  
Blogger Urban Projovem by Teacher Helena said...

Oh My!!
My name's Helena. Im a brazilian teacher. I loved reading your points .
Well, you were about shutting down this blog. I guess you really did it .
Its a pitty!! I really think you could keep doing a great job .
In addition to talking about education in America, you could make an analogy among the public schools all over the world.
This is an idea that I feed.
What you say??

Think about.

I hope i can back here and read more from you!!

10/08/2010 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Maths private tutor said...

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Great information in this post and I think the kids who don't give a rip don't get very much out of it, but the kids who want to go to a vo-tech are able to do that, and the kids really want to get prepared for college are able to do so.

10/21/2010 1:02 AM  
Anonymous nisha said...

You got so many points here, that's why i love reading your blog. Thank you so much!
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10/25/2010 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Paul Husser said...

I would recommend trying this biology flashcards from Funnelbrain. They are an amazing educational tool and they were created by students and teachers, for students and teachers. So they know what a student needs to know.

12/17/2010 2:26 AM  
Anonymous Claire said...

good luck! hope for the best Dennis. .

2/02/2011 6:07 AM  
Anonymous Osman said...

I really admire your effort you've exert on this blog, your pearls of wisdom made me enlightened to the real visions of public educations in America.

2/03/2011 4:14 AM  
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6/15/2011 1:57 AM  
Anonymous house painting said...

Good luck Dennis. Wish you luck always. Keep doing what you love.

7/31/2011 8:59 PM  
Blogger Anthony Davis said...

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2/17/2013 10:41 PM  

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