Lancer Letter


#398 Green Beans

I really enjoy eating fresh green beans from the garden. The fresh taste is unequaled by beans from a can or even frozen beans.

Beans are relatively easy to grow but I really don’t like picking beans. It is a tedious task. The beans are the exact same color as the plant. You pick all the beans from one plant and move on to the next. Then you glance back at the plant you just finished picking and see another bean or two as plain as day. “How did that get there?”

I’ve spent a lot of time while picking beans wondering why the Creator of beans didn’t make them a different color like fluorescent orange or hot pink. I’d even settle for the trendy color of the 80’s, fuchsia. I get the thing about chlorophyll and green but that could have gone differently. If the idea of eating a serving of fluorescent orange beans turns your nose, it is only because you’ve been conditioned to think of green beans as, well, green.

(Note: I know about yellow beans which I’ve grown. I just don’t care for the taste.) As long as the pleasure of eating fresh green beans from the garden outweighs the tediousness of picking them, I will likely continue to grow and eat fresh garden green beans. Someday, if I really can’t stand the picking, I may break down and eat frozen green beans. Recently, my bean reverie precipitated some thoughts about the future of education. Educators get great joy from helping students – watching them grow, learn and mature. Unfortunately, the tediousness of the work grows with every legislative bill passed. The tediousness touches administrators and teachers alike.

This past June I was excited to hear that the governor signed a law appropriating 60 million dollars for school safety. It was stated that districts would have a wide berth in determining how money would be used. I rejoiced to hear that we might actually be getting financial help for the work we had already done and the money we already committed. What was I thinking?

Of course, the legislative bill appropriating the money came with many strings: appoint a school safety coordinator (and it can’t be the likely choice of school resource officer), appoint people to receive notifications from the new anonymous tip line from the state, create an annual report, provide biennial tours to first responders, and require employees to do 3 hours of safety training every five years. That’s in addition to the 6 hours of training in child abuse, 4 hours of suicide training and the 180 hours of academic training every five years.

When these legislative bills are created, they like to be thorough and any one at face value can make sense and sound like a good idea. But the cumulative effect of all these requirements and the small details (administrivia) add up to a pretty big distraction to our core mission of educating students.

Administrators balance such a wide variety of issues and tasks. No where in private business and industry would so much responsibility be dumped on one person. The classroom is not exempt. A question we hear from teachers is, “when will I get time to teach?”

Here’s a funny one: a new truancy law went into effect last year. It requires us to have meetings with students who are truant (they’re never in school to meet). It also used to be that we were responsible for truancy for students in cyber charter schools. Even though we had no access to their records, when a cyber school determined a student was “truant,” we had to be the one to file the charges and appear in court on the matter. I went to one hearing for a student from a cyber charter school and that school flew in an administrator from Philadelphia just for the hearing. She knew nothing about the case. I can’t image having that kind of money to fly people across the state for a 30 minute hearing. But, I digress.

The truancy law from last year was updated this summer. We no longer have to worry about truants in cyber space! That is rightly the responsibility of the school they “attend.” We do however, have to assist private schools in dealing with truant students! I’m still scratching my head on that one.

Fewer and fewer young people are entering the education profession. A local university now only has 1/3 of the students in education it had in 2011. I worry about the future for the students to come. A lot of good educators will decide to eat green beans from a can.