My Turn: STEM Matters! – A reason to play the glad game

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 16, 2012

By Amy Pruitt

Best-selling author Eleanor Porter created the endearing character Pollyanna, an orphaned girl who only saw the good in people. Walt Disney Studios brought Pollyanna to the big screen in 1960. The Glad Game scene from that production has become an iconic depiction of the main character’s unwavering optimism. It is this type of optimism we need to bring back as we examine what is right with public schools.
In the Glad Game scene, Pollyanna describes how she and her father enjoyed playing a game in which bad thoughts were turned to glad thoughts. The object of the game was to examine a difficult situation and find the good. As an educator, I find myself playing the Glad Game more often these days. Serving in public schools my entire career has afforded me a wealth of experiences, not to mention contact with hundreds of students and parents. The insight gained from those contacts aided me in developing my Pollyanna vantage of looking at what is right with public schools.
An onslaught of negative publicity detailing what is wrong with public schools appears in the media weekly. In addition, television commercials selling online education programs that promise individualized instruction for students from the comfort of their homes criticize and critique public schools. So … what is right with our public schools? Humor me for a moment and let’s play the Glad Game. I will share my Pollyanna viewpoint on public education and follow up with the alternative – a nation devoid of public schools.
I am glad all students are provided a free education. The alternative would be an education system where only the wealthy could educate their children. I am glad students from diverse backgrounds and beliefs attend school together. The alternative would be students seldom having the opportunity to examine their own culture or what they believe. I am glad teachers, support staff and administrators work above and beyond the call of duty for the educational benefit of all students. The alternative would be excluding students with disabilities. I am glad our public schools provide access to educational technology most students cannot afford in their homes. The alternative would be thousands of children who only dream of using laptops, iPods or iPads.
I am glad our public schools continue to move forward with college and career ready programs despite crippling budget cuts year after year. The alternative would be a generation of learners who had truly been left behind more than just educationally. I am glad for the parents who support classrooms with volunteer hours or by joining the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The alternative would be students who would not receive the added support of a caring adult or extracurricular programs that enrich the learning process. I am glad our community partners rally behind educational opportunities for student improvement by providing additional funding across our county. The alternative would be fewer after-school enrichment programs, educational field trips and less state-of-the-art equipment for our schools. I believe it is time to put the Glad Game to good use when examining our public schools and the people who believe in the purpose they serve.
A wonderful opportunity to witness what is right with public schools will be available Saturday, Sept. 22, as RSS presents “STEM Matters!” at Horizons and Knox Middle from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event will showcase teachers and students demonstrating how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are providing new learning opportunities throughout our district. Demonstrations include a wide range of STEM topics – robotics, news broadcasting, biotechnology, forensics and a marine study, just to name a few. Come and watch fifth-grade students testing disaster relief packages they designed as part of a study on natural disasters. The planetarium at Horizons will offer several laser shows throughout the event. An veiling of the new “STEM Exploration Lab” made possible through the generous support of the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation, Inc., Rowan Regional Medical Center and Duke Energy will occur so the public can tour and investigate a sampling of K-5 lessons students will receive this year. All of these activities are feasible because public school officials, administrators and staff believe in offering a high quality education to all students. By local residents attending the “STEM Matters!” event, RSS students, teachers and schools will feel the support of our community. All who attend will be glad they came to observe for themselves why public education matters!

Amy Pruitt is a STEM mobile-classroom teachers in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

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