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April 2014 Vol. 21. No. 5 Focus on Using School Time Wisely

From our readers

Students take a stand for libraries

By the Notebook on Mar 28, 2014 09:13 AM

Camps help create a balanced life

Response to February-March 2014 article, “Camp leaves lasting memories,” by Madelyn J. Silber. 

Many people profess that we need a longer school year and school day in order to close the achievement gap (as measured by standardized tests, of course). I submit that what we need so much more are opportunities for alternative learning experiences, including summer camps.

One of the major inhibitors of wide-ranging achievement is a lack of a background of experience. Summer camps enhance the total development of children and adolescents.

More time in classrooms, if we are doing the same old, same old, is counterproductive to authentic learning. There is no credible evidence that more time in school translates to authentic academic achievement or personal growth.

A balanced life of learning and time for children to just be children is a far better use of time. Nature has a way of growing children, and sometimes it is best for us to just get out of the way and let her do the teaching.

Rich Migliore 

The writer is a retired School District administrator, an attorney, and author of “Whose School Is It? The Democratic Imperative for Our Schools”.


Students take a stand for libraries

Response to Feb. 14 commentary post, “Without libraries, how will schools create avid readers?” by Eileen DiFranco.

The kind of impact that radical budget cuts have had on our students includes not only the day-to-day problems of the classroom (no supplies, crowded classrooms, etc.), but also the loss of all those other essentials that support student learning and achievement, like school libraries.

Libraries are so vital to a school that the students themselves are starting to take action to fix this problem. At our school, an academic magnet, the students started a drive to reopen the library space we have (though tiny in comparison to those of Masterman or Central) and restock it with good, contemporary books obtained through donations and funds raised on their own. 

Our principal is in full support of this initiative and has done what is possible to support them materially – by making sure the space had computer equipment and printers, for instance. I and several other teachers volunteer after school time (so as not to take away budget for other afterschool activities) to supervise the students when they open up in the afternoons. We haven’t been able to let them open during the school day because there’s no one available to do that supervision with us all stretched to the limit on our classes. We’d love to make it happen, but the resources just aren’t there.

These are amazing kids who know and value the resource that a library represents – as do their peers, who are flocking to the library during its brief hours. They borrow books, do research, consult with both the student librarians and teachers about sources and other library-related issues. 

It’s both a beautiful and a sad sight to behold – students taking an active part in doing what our district should do for them, but won’t.

John Politis

The writer is a retired librarian. 

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