Classroom volunteers

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I was talking with a friend's daughter the other day. She teaches in the Denver area public schools. Being a retired teacher, I'm still interested in what's going on in all public schools. She told me that for the last several years, including this one, the maximum enrollment in a K-3 classroom has been 25. However, for next year the maximum enrollment for students in the first four years will be 40.

This is a national problem for all public school districts. Many students now are going to be left behind. For whatever reason, all school districts are realizing dropping financial support. According to our local news, Missouri public schools will also be receiving less financial support. This can be dealt with in two ways. We can raise taxes for local education, or we can reduce the number of teachers, staff and programs like the Denver district is going to do.

A third possibility is to have more volunteers involved. Many people already volunteer in one way or another in the local schools. I hope Southeast Missouri administrators are beginning to consider using this option, at least in some academic areas. Then, too, maybe some regulations in state law will have to be temporarily suspended.

What reinforces this to me is that there are many people in the area -- retired seniors, younger adults who can fit it into their schedules and students also -- who are volunteering with a special first-grade reading program in four Jackson elementary schools. The only requirement is a desire to help youngsters.

It is not difficult if you enjoy working with children. Jackson High School students and even some fourth- and fifth-graders are tutoring first-grade readers. In my case, it's "See Spot run" all over again, although it's now "See Mitt and Sis swim in the pond." I always walk out of North Elementary and South Elementary schools feeling better than when I walked in. If you like children, it's a positive way to help them.

My point is that this can be expanded greatly to help all students here in Southeast Missouri, and throughout the U.S. Having been a teacher and guidance counselor for 30 years, I know this can be worked into quite an education program -- this volunteering. For now, while we wait for the economy to improve, this is one way to help our schools to graduate a decent product. There is no way to put out a quality product at any grade level with one teacher, all by herself or himself, with 40 students in every classroom.

Jan Gieselmann is a Jackson resident.

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