SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Jerry Cegelske


January 31, 2006

It has been interesting listening to the statements made about the Schoenbar School remodel and the kids being at "Schoenbon".  The Borough will be going to court for a fix for the school building problems as the mayor has stated.  What is more interesting to me are the comments about our kids at the mall.
As parents it is normal to want the best for our children, and this includes an environment that is conducive to learning.  The parents with children at Schoenbon didn't want them exposed to the noise and distractions of the mall, which we can all understand.  Hopefully the majority of them took this as an opportunity to help their children grow.  Even as adults, we seldom get everything that we want, and sometimes, thankfully we don't.  It is through challenges that most of us grow.  In many cases it is through failure that we learn (or at least should learn).  If that path is not the way to success, we need to take another route.  Edison learned of over 900 ways not to light a light bulb before finding success.
I think that the children may be tougher than their parents, and are reflective of their parents.  The fact that they had t-shirts with "Schoenbon" on them displays a healthy attitude.  In many cases it is through hardship that true friendships and bonding develops.  Many times it is the "not perfect" times that bring out the best in us whether it be the botched vacation, the wedding ceremony disaster, or other disaster of the moment.  These kids will be the ones in 14-15 years that will be in the 4th of July parade with shirts on that say "Schoenbon/KHS Graduate".   This is a bump in the road of their education, not a mountain to climb. Hopefully the teachers will have the attitude of  "That was the toughest time to teach kids, but it was also the most rewarding for me as a teacher.  I had to draw on inner strength I didn't know I had as a teacher."
Hopefully the parents didn't allow the fact that their children were at the mall to be used as an excuse for a lesser effort in school or an excuse for not doing as well.  They should be expected to do better with less time spent on other normal school extracurricular activities and more time to study.  Children need and like to be challenged.  If you do not think so, why are they so eager to show you what they can do or have learned.  Remember when they told you to "Watch me!" as they ride their bike for the second time or do something they saw you do, that they couldn't do before.  I think this is one of the greatest reasons for children to drop out of school.  They are not challenged enough to keep their interest and they get bored, they don't understand the relevancy.
One of the most difficult things to have children (and some adults) understand is that everything that they do has a consequence and an affect on their future, be it in driving, drugs, alcohol, skipping a test, or not doing homework, skipping school to party or what have you.  From what I  have read, many do not have that physical ability as their brains are not developed sufficiently to understand that until later in life (at about age 100), no matter how much we try to teach them and get them to understand.
The PTA should change their name to PTSA for Parent, Teacher and Student Association for it is only through the work and cooperation of all three that education can take place.  Since tax dollars support our schools it is proper that the community demand more from all three groups as it is otherwise a waste of money.  The parents should expect the best from the teachers and DEMAND more from their children, including  respect for their  teachers and fellow classmates.  The teachers should expect and get more cooperation and respect from their students and parents in making sure the emphasis in the home is on learning.  The students should expect the best from the teachers and help from their parents in placing their education as a top priority (whether they want it or not).  They have one chance at a free grade school education and they need to take advantage of it, and not use home study time to spend on having a good time.  It is doubtful that they will demand more homework or extra assignments to be challenged to learn!  This isn't Burger King and they can't have it their way!  They cannot and do not, for the most part, understand they are affecting their life forever, be it their retirement in 45 years, their choice of a mate, or their future occupations and lifestyle.  It is up to the community and parents to guide them on their road to a self sufficient life.
Notice that I did not put PTSBA, B standing for building.  If the children have the desire to learn, the parents stress the need and help the child learn, and if the teacher is dedicated to their students and profession, it doesn't matter where the classes are held, learning will take place even if there are difficulties facing everyone.  Why did your grandparents stress the difficulties they had in school?   The one room school, hauling water for the class, keeping the stove going, walking the 2, 3, or 4 miles to school thru snow and rain?  I think they were usually bragging about the obstacles they were facing and overcame to reach this point in their lives and were proud that they had the fortitude to do it.  Many in small schools accomplished more with their lives that others that had all the advantages.
In October 1997, I flew to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East and met with members of the AMBA patrol, a government conservation group charged with the duty to protect the Siberian tigers from poachers.  After a week there we traveled to the small town of Lazo, about 100 miles E. N. East of Vladivostok to teach Russian managers of conservation agencies about wildlife law enforcement in the United States.  Lazo's major industry had been shut down with the breakup of the former Soviet Union which made for tough economic times in the village.  Lazo was in the middle of tiger country and surrounded by forested areas.
At lunch time, we would walk past the village school to the building with the dining hall in it.  One day the children were running races on the sidewalk and a race was about to start between two 8-10 year old students.  I stopped next to them and waited until the teacher blew the whistle and the three of us took off.  I came in second!  We all had a good laugh about the race.  Any playground equipment they had could have been made from wood purchased from a lumber yard for $500.00 and made on a weekend.
Several days later when the land and water managers were discussing their problems and we weren't needed, I told the interpreter that I wanted to go to the school for an hour.  We went to the administrative office and told the principal that we wanted to talk with some school children.  She told us to wait and left.  Later she came back and said we would meet with the 5th and 10th grade English language classes.
I was in front of the classes and told them who we were and where we were from and why we were in Lazo.  After that I explained that I wanted to answer their questions and said to feel free to ask questions.  One girl raised her hand and asked "Do you get paid every month?".    Another asked how many stories the building I lived in had.  Other questions were about my children, what kind of music I liked and other things.
It wasn't until I thought about the odd questions that I understood the reason for them.  They asked about being paid because some of their parents hadn't been paid for 9 months after the breakup of the former Soviet Union, and the less advantaged of them lived in apartment buildings of up to 10 stories.
The sad thing was that there was a book shelf in the back of the room which did not contain books by the great Greek, Roman and Russian masters, it contained one plant.  The walls were bare except for a black board.  For an English class, there were no ABC's as expected, as we have in our grade schools here, I saw some books in the backpacks but note paper was in very short supply.  It caused me to think back on all the National Geographic magazines I had thrown out and how they could have been used there, the pictures and information (even ads) devoured by the children with their thirst for knowledge.  When I left I gave the teacher a bag of candy to share with her students.
As I mentioned the town lost its major employer and money was not readily available, they didn't know where they were going to get coal to meet the school and  town heating needs.  I checked the storage shed and there was only about 5 tons of coal on the floor.  The residential area of town where I assumed the "rich" people lived had a well that you would love to see.  It was straight out of the fairy tale books with a roof, bucket, rope and crank.  I forgot to mention that the school was about as old as N. Pt. Higgins school but it was made of pine and the pine boards that made up the floor were worn from the thousands of feet walking on them daily and flexed when I walked on them.
We have a newly remodeled high school, N. Pt. Higgins is relatively new, Fawn Mt. will be brand new, a remodeled Schoenbar and older Houghtling and Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.  If the school your child learns in is more important than your involvement, their teacher, and your child's involvement in the learning experience, we can expect the test scores from the kids going to the new Fawn Mt. school to be the best in the state, followed by the students of the remodeled Schoenbar.  Of course they will decline yearly after that as the school does.
If you or your children do not appreciate the building they are learning in, think of
the school children in Lazo, I think they would love to trade places with any student, in any of the classrooms of any of our schools, "Schoenbon" included.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"

Jerry Cegelske
Ketchikan, AK - USA


About: Jerry Cegelske is a Code Enforcement Officer with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.



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Ketchikan, Alaska