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School is In: Lessons learned outside the classroom

Jamie Palmer, a 10th grader at Pittsford Sutherland High School, consoles her teammate, right, as Camden field hockey players celebrate their game-winning goal.

Jamie Palmer, a 10th grader at Pittsford Sutherland High School, consoles her teammate, right, as Camden field hockey players celebrate their game-winning goal. Photo by Herm Card.

When I started this column some months back, I was determined to promote the positive side of education, to make people aware of what I knew to be true – that the field is full of dedicated, talented people who are doing their best against difficult odds to educate our children. But for a while, I found myself railing against the negative – pointing out how bureaucracy was overwhelming those who struggle day to day to provide the education we all expect.

Rather than pointing out their successes, I was pointing out the failures of those who make and administer the rules. I was becoming Scrooge.

I knew I had to get back on track and struggled to find something to turn me around. While editing some photographs, I found it.

This is a photo of the moments immediately following the end of a 3-2 “sudden victory” overtime in the girls field hockey quarterfinal game between Camden of Section III and Pittsford Sutherland of Section V.

It is obvious that Camden, in white, has won. The players scream with joy in the delicious moment of victory. They have earned the right to continue – they will move on to the New York State semifinals. They have learned the lesson that teamwork, dedication, responsibility, fitness, practice and perseverance pay off. But, if Camden has won then Pittsford has not. Their own teamwork, dedication, responsibility, fitness, practice and perseverance has only served to get them maddeningly close to victory.

We media types tend to see only the scores that define outcomes and the statistics that define individual performance. We see things in black and white, much like the medium in which our words are delivered. So it is also with public education.

We often tend to see failures rather than success. Check the headlines over a period of time and you will see way too many that point out that one team has lost rather than that the other team has won. The lesson – a bad one – tends to be that to not win is to fail.

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