A Christmas story for children and for the child in each of us


Newspaper Columns

During the years 1985-1986, I wrote a column titled "Dear Teacher"  that appeared in The Bethlehem Globe Times, a local daily newspaper in  Bethlehem, PA. This was one of three daily newspapers in the Lehigh  Valley and the one I had read for my whole reading life, so it was quite  a thrill to see myself in print there. Shortly after I stopped writing  the column, the newspaper went out of business. (Incidentally, this was  not my fault!) I enjoyed the weekly discipline of writing and polishing  750 words a week, though it was a little pressure since I was teaching  full-time and had the usual responsibilities of a parent and wife and  lived in the same area as relatives with all the attendant expectations  of extended family.  I am including a few of my favorite columns here.

The "Dear Teacher" columns below are as follows:

1.  The rewards of teaching are subtle and enduring (June, 1985)

2.  Sometimes simple answers are the hardest (Feb. 12, 1986)

3.  If you can read this column, give thanks to a teacher (April 9, 1986)

4.  "Penny wise and pound foolish" no way to educate (June 4, 1986)

5.  The world is a better place for her having been here (Oct. 1, 1986)

6.  Popularity is no yardstick by which to judge teachers (Sept. 25, 1985)

7.  A wish for holiday smells and happy memories (Dec. 24, 1985)

8.  Consider these resolutions for New Year's (Dec. 31, 1985)


1.  The rewards of teaching are subtle and enduring

    Holding  a finished piece of pottery you made can give you enormous  satisfaction.  You took clay and either shaped it by hand or used a  potter's wheel.  You chose the colors of the glaze.  You added the  design.  When you were done, you had a product in your hand.  Given the  same amount of time and a little luck, you know that you can use the  skills you learned to create another piece.
    Whether you build a  house or remove a gall bladder, in a relatively short time, you receive  the satisfaction of seeing the completion of your efforts in a tangible  form.  The house provides shelter and comfort for a family.  The ill person feels much better without the diseased gall bladder.  
    Some  professions are not like that, and teaching is one of them.  Students  come to a classroom having experienced many influences--other children,  parents, relatives, neighbors, other teachers, and a cast of thousands  on television.  During their stay in a particular classroom, the teacher  hopes to do some fine tuning of what the student already knows, to  polish a few rough spots and add some new insight and discipline.
    When  the student leaves that classroom, he or she is not a completed  product.  Even as the teacher is waving goodbye on the last day of  school, there is the disquieting thought, "If only we had had more  time."  It is not easy to share a year in a child's growth and then  release that child, knowing that more work needs to be done.  Come  September, new children fill those seats and there is a fleeting,  sinking sensation that you have not gotten anywhere, but must begin the  shaping process again.
    There is an underlying consolation that  time was well-spent while the student was in the classroom.  Growth  across that year, academically, socially and physically, can be  observed.  Still there is not the exhilaration of starting and  completing a product.  Teachers have to recognize themselves as a part  of a process which they sincerely hope will lead to the formation of a  literate, caring, contributing member of society.
    While we are  with them and after they leave us, students need to know that we care  not only about our part in their growth but also about the adult they  will become.  Teachers eagerly share news of the successes of former  students.  They are genuinely delighted to know what has become of Johnny Shy and Susie Quiet.  Their triumphs are ours, too.
    There  are shared sorrows as well when former students suffer illness or  misfortune.  We ask ourselves what more we could have done to help.  We  have, for a time, shared in the person's growth, and, therefore, a bit  of us goes along with the student and a bit of the student stays with  us.
    Perhaps the greatest joys are hearing that Barry Belligerent  and Dora Deceitful have learned the discipline and values necessary to  channel their energies into positive contributions.  Maybe our  insistence on civil behavior and our adherence to academic standards may  have helped.
    The numerous diligent students make the job  possible, but we sometimes forget to adequately praise them for their  accomplishments, knowing that they will be fine.  The children who drive  us a little crazy make some days very long.  But years later, to hear  that the troubled student, the angry student, the disinterested student  has found his place in the world is wonderful news, renewing our hope  and belief that education and time can make a difference.
    Teaching  is rewarded weekly in the classroom when individual students leap  academic hurdles and overcome social obstacles.  As years add themselves  to years, the seasoned teacher gets the reward of seeing students grow  into adults.  It takes time, much longer than the making of a vase or  the removal of a gall bladder.
    No one teacher can step forward  and take credit for the final product, but all of the teachers in the  shadow of that student silently support that child's progress and cheer  that child's victories.  It is a sustaining part of the teaching  profession, and students need to know that they have this network of  people in their lives quietly wishing them well.
    It has been  another rewarding year in the teaching profession.  As I conclude our  relationship for this school year, I hope you have had a worthwhile  year, too.  May your summer hold many good books, ideas and adventures  you can share with someone else. 

2.  Sometimes simple answers are the hardest

    You  have a pain in your stomach that comes and goes.  You decide to go to a  doctor.  You are greeted by a receptionist who takes a routine health  history and asks what your problem is.  She escorts you to a room  commenting that this is where other people with stomach problems are  waiting.  You go inside to find 25-35 other people expecting the  doctor.  When he arrives, he hurriedly looks over the medical histories  and out across the sea of pained faces.  Clearing his throat, he  addresses the people, "I see from your records that you all have similar  stomach problems.  I want you all to go on this diet and to take this  medication.  If you get no relief, come back and we will place you in a  more intensive stomach grouping.  Now I must move on to the nose and  throat room.
    Your car is sputtering and dies out when you try to  start on a slight grade.   You take it to the repair shop and the  mechanic says, "I see you report that the car sputters and dies on  slight grades."  Park it with that group to your right.  There you find  25-35 cars with their owners waiting.  Upon inquiry, you learn that  their cars have similar problems, but some have coughs instead of  sputters and some only start when the temperature is above 32 degrees.   Soon a mechanic addresses the group, "These cars have similar problems.   We will adjust the carburetor and align the wheels.  Your cars will be  ready at five."
    If you would receive this kind of treatment in a  doctor's office about your valuable health  or from a mechanic about  your sole means of transportation, you would be screaming bloody  murder.  After all, your stomach is special and you expect it to receive  the undivided attention of a trained professional.  While your car is  not as important as your health, you want that problem solved so that  you can depend on your car to serve you well.
    The answers seem  simple enough.  The doctor should see you alone and find out all about  your problem so that you can feel better and stop worrying.  The  mechanic should work on one car at a time and investigate all the  possible causes of its problem.
    You have a child you love.  It is  time for that child to receive an education.  The world is complex and  you want that child to be prepared to live happily.  You take your child to  elementary school and you are directed to a room where there are 25-35  other children and one teacher.
    After elementary school, you take  your child to secondary school.  There you are directed to place your  child in a room with 25-35 other children and teacher A.  After 45  minutes, you are told to move your child to another room for another  subject with teacher B.  This pattern  continues for a full day with  your child meeting eight teachers.  Each teacher meets with no less  than five classes, about 100-150 children  per day.
    If your child  does well under these circumstances, you may want to send that child on  to college.   One of the criteria for choosing a college may well  be class size.   Now, the number of students in a class will matter.   Why hasn't it mattered before?  And what about those children who have  dropped out along the way or who have finished school with a minimum of  skills?
    If I sound angry, I am. Time Magazine reports about new  tutorial centers for profit which boast of pupil-to-teacher ratios of no  more than three to one.  One of the vice presidents of a center states  that they are doing all the things public schools would do if they could  afford it.  For $900 to $2600, you can give your child an advantage  over his classmates who cannot afford the after-school center.
    I  have had my fill of studies and queries and mystified people who can't  understand what needs to be done to improve public education.  There is  no big mystery.  We don't have to spend thousands on task forces.  Start  with a dedicated, well-educated staff, limit their work load so they  can prepare, revise, correct and still have a life after hours, and  reduce class size to 15-20.  With reduced enrollments over the past  years, we have space to permit more, but smaller, classes.  Instead we  have closed buildings.  Teachers have lost jobs and class size has  remained high; in some cases it has risen.
    If it is better  education you want, consider your last visit to the doctor or to a  mechanic.  Your stomach or your car received undivided attention and you  gulped and paid your bill.  Why would you want anything different for the children of the community when they skip off to school? 

3.  If you can read this column, give thanks to a teacher

    I've  been paging through a small publication put out by the National Council  of Teachers of English titled "A Celebration of Teachers."  In it, many  people whom we would recognize as having successful careers take the  time to tell the story of an encounter with a teacher who said  something, did something, or represented something which made a  significant difference in their lives.  More than the thanks expressed,  the love which flowed from teacher to student and, now, from student  back to teacher is breathtaking.
    Humorist Erma Bombeck speaks of a  stern teacher who managed to instill basic communication skills and  pride.  Art Buchwald was lucky enough to have a teacher who saw behind his class clown antics and recognized some talent which she encouraged.
    Norman  Cousins speaks of a teacher who was in love with books and shared her  love with her classes.  Norman Vincent Peale tells of a professor who  inspired his students to be masters of English.
    Politicians like  Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter took the time to remember teachers who  made a difference for them.  Edwin Newman with CBS News and authors like  Bernard Malamud and Peter DeVries, all of whom earn their livings by  writing, found encouragement from teachers which helped to shape their careers.
    The pamphlet is laced with phrases like "she had great  dignity and status in the community;" "a teacher took my adolescent  dream seriously;" "he inspired me to read for pleasure;" "Mr. Hamill had  led me to a truth;" "unyielding in their standards, despairing of sloth  and mediocrity, and incorruptible;" and "She was a vibrant example of  the fact that one does not teach a subject, one teaches a child."  I  have read these tributes several times.  Each time I find them ringing  with hope for teachers and students.
    Of course, this publication  was designed specifically for English teachers, but many other teachers  have made important contributions not only to people who became famous,  but also to those who went on to have more quality in their lives  because a teacher said or did or represented something to them in their  youth.
    When I have a hard day at school, I sometimes reflect on  those teachers who have molded me.  Some were stern and unbending,  teaching me the need to set standards and goals.  Others had senses of humor needed to get through the ridiculous parts of any job.  Many loved  what they did and shared their enthusiasm.  Most cared about each  student as a person.  Each year, I try to add these strengths to my own  teaching.
    Several names jump to mind when I think of my  teachers.  The one most on my mind when I think of fine teachers is William Hissam, my science teacher when I was a student at Northeast  Junior High School.  He was a blend of many fine qualities.  He had a  ready smile for all of us.  He talked and joked easily with students.   He enjoyed his subject and made science interesting and fun.  Years  after junior high school, meeting him by chance around town, he always  remembered me and was genuinely interested in where I was and what I was  doing. 
    Mr. Hissam.  A fine human being.  When he died this past  year, I regretted not telling him more how much he influenced me.   Others probably keep his memory alive for similar reasons.
    How  about you?  Is there a teacher who made a difference for you?  Would you  like a chance to publicly thank that teacher?  Here's you chance.  June  1 is the beginning of Teacher Thank You Week.  If you write now so the  letters can be published near that week, you will have a chance to say  those words of gratitude you may have been thinking all these years.  It  is never too late to say thank you.  In the words of one of the  writers, William Goldman, "I wish I'd told him then.  I didn't.  But  wherever he is, whatever world he presently inhabits, I'm telling him  now."

    Besides ending the column for the summer on a  positive note, I know it will give a boost to all those teachers who  leave the classroom in June tired and, perhaps, discouraged.  Tell me  who the teacher is, what school you attended, and how he or she made a  difference for you.  Let me know if you want your name included or if  you would prefer to have your name withheld.  Your responses can make a  difference.

4.  "Penny wise and pound foolish" no way to educate

    With  the sound of running feet and shouts of joy, the children explode into  their much desired summer vacation.  I have a few more days of meetings,  and then I too will realize that I have weeks of unscheduled time  before me.  I leave, however, toting plants, books, and notebooks.  I do  not run.  Now that the last surge of determination has gotten me  through the final, busy weeks of school, I begin to realize how weary I  am.  It is at this ebb of energy that I reflect on the year and weigh out the advantages and disadvantages, the highs and lows, the pros and  cons of the profession I have chosen
    On the negative side, I have  watched governments cut budgets which will hurt education, while report after report and citizen after citizen call for a need for better  education.  I am disturbed locally by possible cuts which will adversely  affect my own children  --  the ones who will need to make complex  decisions in their, and our, futures.  Old cliches come to mind, like  "Penny wise and pound foolish."
    I am concerned about critics of  education who spout airy theories and decide issues like staffing  needs, computer education, vocational education, all-day kindergarten,  evening school, and bi-lingual education without consulting the   teachers who actually carry out these programs and without stopping into  a classroom to see for themselves.  Unless a person has stood in front of a class and tried to teach, it must be  difficult to have a true  picture of what is needed.  Consulting the teachers involved in these  programs would seem logical.
    When people complain loudly and publicly about increased taxes, I wonder where they were educated and how those costs were met?  It is, after all, the responsibility of a  society to educate its young for the benefit and insurance of its own  successful continuation.  The better job we do, the better our future  will be.  Compare teachers' salaries to professional athletes and entertainers, not to mention other professions, and our values as a  society begin to come into focus.  Do we put our money where our mouths  are?
    In the course of a day, most teachers are called on to do  clerical work, monitor lunchrooms, and police lavatories.  Businesses would never think of misusing the time of its professional staff when secretaries, aids, and security people are better trained for these tasks and could be paid accordingly.  Yet teachers are expected to  manage without the support staff which many business and professional  people take for granted.
    This is a profession in which many  people give time, energy, and care above and beyond the call of duty,  leaving little for building a public image.  Consequently, the public  knows little about the good work that  goes on daily in thousands of  schools across the country, basing their judgements instead on news stories featuring teachers' strikes, drug problems in the schools and  assorted incompetencies.
    A teacher in the 80's faces many  obstacles.  Children are under stress because of shifting family lifestyles.  Classroom atmosphere and safety are uncertain because of  disrespectful attitudes, sometimes aggravated by the availability of  drugs.  The community further erodes teacher respect and authority by  expressing low esteem for the profession.
    Why, then, do people  continue teaching?  The answer is one word:  children.  Most teachers like kids, care about kids, and delight in their progress.
    When I  add up the pros of the year, it always begins and ends with individual  memories of students.  To help students move from one level of  understanding to another, to watch their sense of accomplishment, to  have them share ideas, to hear their laughter in the halls, to know that I made a difference; these are the satisfactions which more balance the  scales.
    When I catch up on my rest, I will do what most teachers do.  I'll clean some closets, organize the basement, and spend time  with my family.  Professionally, I'll read several books, do some  writing, restructure some teaching units to make them work even better,  and I'll travel, always keeping an eye out for an idea or experience  that will enrich my teaching when I return to the classroom.
    When  school resumes in the fall, I'll be there, just as most other teachers  will, because I enjoy the subject I teach and the children I reach.  I  believe education can open doors, solve problems, and carry hope.  The  bottom line for anyone involved with education must be what is best for  the total development of the children because that is what is best for all of us.

5.  The world is a better place for her having been here

I  was happy to hear again from a person who had written in response to  Teacher Thank-You Week.  That column, which appeared in the spring,  encouraged readers to write to thank a teacher who had made a difference  in their lives.  This person wrote about Florence Fluck who taught at the Tohickon School in Quakertown.  She would have been 92 this  October.  
    Because Carl Smith wrote to thank her through this  column, he was reunited with another boy from the Quakertown orphanage  whom he had not seen  in 45 years.  After exchanging news, they made  plans to get together and vist their teacher.
    I had asked Smith  to keep me informed about the outcome of this fascinating reunion and I  heard from him in August.  He wrote that he and his friend did visit  Mrs. Fluck in the Quakertown Hospital in June.  He learned that she had  been a past president of the Richland (One Room School) Historical  Society and became a gifted artist after her retirement.
    Sadly,  Florence Fluck died in early August.  Smith noted that he met two other  people at the viewing who were in the children's home with him and many  people whom he had grown up with in Sunday school and church.
    His  final words about this teacher are a fitting tribute: " She led a  fruitful life, touched many lives, and the world is a better place for  her having been here.  So is my life better having touched her."
    Smith  also told me of an annual reunion held in Richlandtown at the Shelly  School, home of the Richland (One Room School) Historical Society each  fall.  He and his friend were planning to attend this year. 
    I  couldn't resist the desire to meet this caring man and his friend as well as to learn more about Mrs. Fluck.  What I found out was  delightful.
    The Society was organized "for the purpose of  preserving a one-room schoolhouse as a symbol of all the country schools  and the teachers who taught in them." Nine of these schools were  located in the township of Richland which surrounds Quakertown borough:   Shelly School, Tohickon, Rocky Ridge School, Central School, Scholl  School, Shaw's School, California, Kauffman's School, and Wimmer's  School.  Each of these one-room schools has a fascinating history,  reflected in the exhibits on display at Shelly School, which is  furnished as a one-room school would have been.
    My younger daughter came with me on that pleasant September day.  She had great fun exploring the idea of learning in such a school where each of the eight  rows of chairs represented a grade.  She was fascinated by the mental  picture of a teacher instructing one row at a time while the other children did seat work until the teacher would progress to their row.
    Using  a slate as a rough draft to preserve valuable paper was also novel  since she knows that slate is now more expensive than paper.  The water  pump which actually worked was also a treat for this modern child.  The  two-seater outhouse was beyond comment.
    While the building was of special interest, the memory of the children and the teachers who  filled these schools is even more precious.  Pictures capture the faces  of some of the classes, and the imprint made by the teachers is recorded  in the written records, as well as on the faces of the children in the  pictures.
    Florence Fluck was one of those teachers.  She taught  in more than one of the one-room schools, but it is at Tohickon where  she seems to have been treasured the most.  Some of her former students  were at the reunion and spoke fondly of her.  In later years, they told  me, her students faithfully kept in touch with her.
    Perhaps the  most rewarding find of the day was a document which Mrs. Fluck had  written.  In it she speaks of humble beginnings and her eventual  opportunity to attend the state normal school, something she did not  originally think she would be able to afford.  Her desire to be a  teacher burned so strong, you see, because she had had a good teacher in her childhood whom she admired.
    One room school houses are a  thing of the past, but dedicated teachers and eager students can still  be found in any school in the country.  Thanks to the Richland  Historical Society for preserving an interesting time in the history of  education and for reminding us of the importance of the teachers who  served so well in those schools.

6.  Popularity is no yardstick by which to judge teachers

    Each  fall, we have come to expect the Miss America Pageant with its  glamorous, talented young women.  A controversial event, to some it  seems like a meat show, while others see it as the showcase for American  values.  Whatever your view, none of us can overlook that popularity is the key to a successful contestant.  
    Indeed, we have many areas in our society where popularity is held up as a desirable trait.  When  it comes to teaching, however, neither students, parents, nor teachers  should get caught in the popularity trap.
    A teacher does not  teach to be popular, though it is tempting to be liked.  When standards  become eroded in the pursuit of popularity, it is time to take a look at  priorities.  Excellent subject teachers may be popular, but students  also like teachers who give little homework, demand little in class,  tell good jokes, show many movies unrelated to the topic, or speak to  them in the same slang students use.
    Determining which teacher is  a good teacher is difficult since there are no fool-proof measures on  which to base that judgment.  Working with children does not provide an  immediate product.  It takes years of education, home training, social  interaction, and mental readiness for children to appear finished.   Teaching is, therefore, an art with many artists contributing to the  masterpiece.  Including one or two less able artists or less personable  artists along the way may make little difference to the final results.   Obviously, we would all like each artist to be the best, but no  profession is composed of only the best.
    Another obstacle to  determining who is the best is that other factors may interfere with  children's learning.  Problems at home, difficulty with peers, or slower  maturity can slow academic development.  It is to be hoped that  teachers will take students farther along the road each is traveling.  This, however, cannot be measured on any standardized test when we are dealing with the development of a whole person.
    Parents, too,  have difficulty evaluating teachers except through comments their  children make or comments from other parents who have discovered a year  or two down the road that such-and-such a teacher gave their children a  good foundation.  Looking back on your own schooling, you may remember a  few teachers whom you did not like at the time, but who insisted on  high standards of performance from you and ran classes which demanded  your attention.
    Once in a while, teachers receive a note or a  call to thank them years after having had a student.  This feedback is  among the most rewarding parts of teaching.  It isn't always easy being  firm, so it is nice to know that your caring, in the form of maintaining  a professional level of instruction, is appreciated.  
    Sometimes  a teacher will struggle with a student continuously and often  unpleasantly for a whole year only to end the year feeling as though the  battle has been lost and this person missed your intention and hates you.  This child will most likely be one of those who gained from the  experience and will seek out this teacher in years to come.  The  struggle doesn't make the teacher popular, but it does make that teacher effective.
    Often the effectiveness of teachers cannot be judged  until years later.  Then students can evaluate their learning  experiences based on the goals they have been able to achieve and by what deficiencies they have found themselves limited.  It would be too much to expect that judgment on teachers could be postponed for several  years, but their popularity might then be determined by different  criteria.
    If popularity is a poor basis by which to judge teachers, how are good teachers to be identified?  School districts need  to choose the best candidates to fill positions.  Choose people who have excelled in their subject area.  Hire experienced teachers who have  recommendations from previous schools.  Assign teachers to teach what  they have been trained to teach.
    Give teaching assignments or changes in assignments weeks, if not months, before the teacher is to start.  Many teachers have been frustrated by assignments given only a  few days before a new year or new opening was scheduled to begin.  These  people genuinely wanted to prepare on their own time, but could not  because decisions were postponed.
    The community must decide that it is to the benefit of society for its young people to be well-educated  and support the schools in attitude as well as in legislation.   Teachers need the respect and support of the home, the community, and  the administration, so that they can do the best job for each child:   the job most of them want to do.

7.  A wish for holiday smells and happy memories

    The  classroom is unnaturally quiet.  After weeks of excitement, the students have gone for their Christmas vacation.  They have worked hard since September, and they have left with a sense of relief as well as  with holiday anticipation.  They are glad to be free of homework, tests,  schedules, deadlines, and teachers.    As I watched them go and as I  think of them now, I know their learning will continue out there in the  "real" world even if they are not aware that education is a part of daily living.  The news media will continue to deliver the daily  tragedies and injustices into their living rooms, and the entertainment  media will show them life as it really isn't. 
    For a moment, I  wonder what I would wish for each of them.  I only need to search my  memory for a short time to know the answer.  In a flash, I am a child  again, counting up the things that really matter as I lie squeezed  behind the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches of colored  lights.  I am the same girl who each year cut off a piece of the  Christmas tree and hid it in a cool spot behind the rain gutter on the north side of the house and returned to savor its piney scent and relive  the joy and excitement of Christmas deep into summer.  I wish my  students holiday smells linked with happy memories that will remain with  them through the years long after the batteries have run down on their  Walkmans and their computers have become obsolete.
    The laughter and jokes we shared in those growing years return.  I remember our  Christmas trees from city lots which would be improved when my dad sawed  off too-bounteous branches from one place and taped them into drilled  holes in the bare spots.  Later, in my teen years, this same man dressed  as Santa and fussed over his white, cotton eyebrows which had to be  just so when he took out a sack of goodies to poorer parts of town.  I  remember Mom, his partner, Mrs. Claus, who still reaches out to others  in the community.  I still have the rag doll of my dreams which she made for one of those Christmases.  I wish my students fun and laughter  shared with adults they admire.
    The accounts of community outpouring to neighbors in need which appear in the media are part of  Christmas memory.  The service agencies, churches, and individuals who share themselves to ease the lives of others receive more coverage at  this time.  I wish that my students might see these acts and have an  opportunity to contribute themselves.
    The recollection of touch  stretches across memory.  My grandfather ice skated into his sixties.  I  remember his strong hands as he guided me around the ice on Echo Lake near Bangor.  When he gripped both of my hands, my folding ankles perked  up and the ice was smoother.  I remember my dad's rough hands when I  would run down the street to meet him on his way home from the bus  stop.  I would carry his lunch kettle and hold his hand and life was safe.  I remember softer hands and busy hands.  My grandmother made  Christmas gifts each year for her children and grandchildren numbering  in the 50's.  My mother's cool hands soothed fevered brows and fitted countless dresses for me.  Those hands keep right on making human  magic.  I wish my students the touch of reassuring hands.
    I  remember brothers who helped keep holiday secrets and who helped a  younger sister when she took on projects she couldn't finish.  One was a  rug I was trying to make for my mother by working yarn on a spool with  four nails hammered into it.  As Christmas approached, I worked furiously but the clock was ticking and my fingers grew sore.  There was  my brother with fresh fingers to help.  I wish my students loving  siblings.
    Teachers who knew the value of holidays, neighbors who went about being decent people, and friends who have remained so across  miles and years are all part of memory.  I wish these for my students,  too.
    Do I wish them stereos and skis and the latest fashions?   Not really.  When the years mellow their presents into memories, I would  like them to have what is important--love of family, respect for  humankind, and respect for self, so that someday they can look back and  count their blessings.
    I've come up with some of what I want for  my students and at the same time I've managed to enjoy some pleasurable memories and reaffirm my priorities.  Now I can go home and enjoy  Christmas with my family.  Whether Christmas is a religious time, a  cultural event, or a friendly tradition your neighbors keep, I hope you  will pause in this special season to remember the things that count and  to share them with the children you meet.

8.  Consider these resolutions for New Year's

    We  have had our fill of turkey, the presents have been opened, and the  excitement has diminished.  We have warmed ourselves beside the fire of logs and memories.  Even in those moments of contentment and before the  needles have begun to fall from the tree, we began to feel the stirrings of a desire to start again--bigger and better in the new year.  1985 is  over and we cannot erase mistakes, decide to tackle missed  opportunities, or take back hasty words.  The good news is that we have a  brand new year with 365 opportunities to do better.    
    New  Year's celebrations usually include an element of self-forgiveness  coupled with resolutions.  We choose to make a commitment to change for  the better.  That sounds like a healthy way to start a new year.  On  that positive note, I submit a limited menu of suggestions for the new  year.  If one or two appeal to you, you are welcome to take them as your own for 1986, providing you give them a good home with lots of  attention.  

    For Students:

    1.  Do your homework carefully every day and hand it in on time.
    2.  Spend five to 10 minutes a day per subject reviewing.  No subject can be learned and retained the night before a test.
    3.  Treat others of any age with respect and compassion.  All people have worth and deserve to be treated so.
    4.   Share in some household responsibilities.  Being a part of a family  carries with it joys and responsibilities just as the rest of life will.
    5.   Look beyond yourself and the people you love to the larger world.  Pick  up a piece of litter, write a letter of concern, volunteer some hours  to help people less fortunate.
    6.  Be of good cheer.  The world needs your special contribution.

    For Parents:

    1.  Model the kind of behavior you want your children to have.  If you  swear, yell or try to solve problems by violence, so will your  children.  If you listen to what your children are saying, they will  learn to listen.  You are your children's best teacher.
    2.  Practice patience.  Children need time and space to learn all they need to know.
    3.   Encourage conversation with your children.  They need to know that they  have a safe place and a trusted person to try out ideas and test  values.
    4.  Build trust by keeping promises and by respecting  your children's dignity.  Don't tell information entrusted to you or  reveal embarrassing mistakes your children may make.

    For Teachers:

    1.  Maintain high, but achievable standards.
    2.  Assign homework of quality, not quantity.
    3.  Use every minute of class time.  Remember how you felt last June when you ran out of time.
    4.   Provide discipline which is consistent and fair.
    5.   Teach students as well as subject contents.  Sometimes what we say to  students as people will matter more in building confidence and  self-worth than any particular lesson.
    6.  Say more words of encouragement. Most students thrive on approval.

    For Administrators:

    1.  The most important part of any school is what happens in the classroom.  Support and encourage the teaching staff.
    2.  Help new teachers and teachers who are having some difficulty by working with them to overcome the problem.
    3.   While doing the juggling act required of administrators, don't let  budget be the primary concern in staffing.  Students deserve the best  trained and most experienced teachers who apply.
    4.  Consult  classroom teachers, as well as department heads and curriculum  specialists:  teachers are professional educators.
    5.  Provide the opportunity for teachers to continue studying.
    6.   If a teacher is going to be reassigned, give several weeks notice so  that the teacher can prepare adequately for the requirements of a new  grade level.

    For the Community:

    1.   Look for the good  things going on in education.  There are many happening quietly each  day in individual classrooms across the country.
    2.  Offer some time to the schools.  Most schools have tutor programs or libraries which need help.
    3.  When you receive your school taxes, ask yourself where our society would be without educated people?
    4.   Question politicians who commission reports on the state of education  and send a teacher into space, but cut funding important to education.
    5.   Even if your children are grown or if you have never had children,  consider that all children belong to the society in which they live.   Remember that your education was supported by others who preceded you.

    Happy New Year!