New Philosophy of Education

Greetings from the Teague Public Library.

We are bombarded these days with theories about ways to improve public education. We want to make our kids smarter than ever before.

I recently heard of a new philosophy of education called, ?Sit Down, Shut Up and Learn.? Accurately, that philosophy is not new at all. It has been around for centuries. With the wrong kind of teacher it would be a disaster. With the right kind of teacher it can be the most effective way for students to learn.

I had just such a teacher for English in Tyler High School. Miss Sarah Marsh was a petite lady, but in no way was she petite when it came to control of her class. She demanded respect and conformance.

The Good Lord has 10 commandments; Miss Marsh has least a hundred. The first week in her class was spent in writing these commandments for a notebook. She had laws for behavior, grammar, and punctuation. Her laws of behavior were ?Thou shalt nots.? We could not sharpen a pencil, touch a shade, or get out of our seat. In short, we were expected to ?sit down, shut up, and learn.?

There was a rumor going around about her quick temper. Rumor had it that when provoked, Miss Marsh would pick up the closest thing to her and throw it at the student that provoked her. She never did it in our class because there were no unruly students that I remember. The rumor alone was sufficient for us. Many folks today would consider this teacher abuse of a student, but one thing for sure, there was no student abuse of the teacher.

Her rules of punctuation and grammar had code numbers. Every paper we turned in, she underlined mistakes and put the code number in the margin. We looked up and wrote the rule and made corrections in the sentence.

I learned to love poetry in her class. We had to memorize lots of poems. We were not allowed to choose our own poems. Miss Marsh chose what she considered the best for us. We had to stand in front of the class and recite. If a student did not know his lines, she would not give him a zero, and go to the next student. He had to stand before the class and repeat each line after her. I?m sure this was hard on those who had trouble memorizing. She did not seem to be unduly harsh with them. She seemed to understand, but excuses or cop-outs were not acceptable.

I never found Miss Marsh to be unreasonable. She expected her students to learn. I learned more in her class than any other class in my twelve years. I appreciated her back then, and all through the years. She was the best teacher I ever had, but I never told her. Writing this article is my way (many years too late) of saying thanks to Miss Sarah Marsh for being a great teacher.

There have been lots of stories written about teachers. The ones that come readily to mind that I enjoyed are Up The Down Stair Case by Bel Kaufman, To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite, Christy by Catherine Marshall, and The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart.

The library has most of these. Some are on the recommended reading lists for students. The Welcome Mat is out at the library. There are all sorts of books sitting on the shelf just waiting to be checked out.

Good reading to you!

Thought: ?The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.? Horace Mann

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