The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas


August 23, 2008

Prepare your children to succeed in class

Published Sun., Aug. 24, 2008

When the tardy bell rings Monday morning around 8 a.m. in schools around the area, the game clock begins ticking on a new season of learning.

While some may find it odd to refer to learning — a lifelong pursuit — in terms of a scholastic competition, we see parallels between athletic competition and the way our country measures academic achievement. As we live in a society that has elevated sports to hero-worship status, perhaps we should explain the value of education in terms those otherwise uninterested may understand.

Every game has rules and education is no different. Rookie students and players start off with the basics of what to do to become a successful student or player. In football, players are taught how to behave on the field — not to begin a play before the ball is snapped, not to hit out of bounds, to stop when the whistle blows. In the classroom, our children are taught how to behave in the classroom — when to sit quietly at the desks, how to react when someone makes you mad and to put up the books and supplies for one subject when it’s time for another.

As our students and athletes advance, the efforts necessary to hone their knowledge and skills increase. Coaches subdivide the game into different aspects — special teams, offense, defense, running game, passing game, line play, secondary, and so on. Techniques are taught for proper tackling, blocking and footwork, and a new language of sport-specific terms emerges. Opponents are analyzed through video and through hands-on practice on the field before ever donning helmets for the actual battle.

Likewise, the coaches in the classroom — the teachers and aides — prepare their students for mastery of particular subjects. The game of learning breaks down into math, science, language arts, reading, social studies, technology, and fine and vocational arts. Teachers strive to not only instill essential knowledge and skills from each subject but also to hone the study techniques necessary to ensure that knowledge advances from mere rote memorization of facts to comprehension of concepts, to applying those concepts in new situations, analyzing the parts of each for deeper understanding, synthesizing elements of different concepts to create something new and then evaluating the outcome.

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