Educators, Don’t Forget Our Goal: Teach Students to Mow Their Yards.

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Mowing Your Yard is One Thing.  Being This Happy is Another.School is about to start.

If you are a follower of this blog (now numbering more people than I can count one hand), you are probably starting to sense a theme.

Did I mention school is about to start?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the beginning of school.

I hate the end of summer.

At least my version of summer.

The version in which my school district continues to pay me regardless of the fact that there aren’t any students or teachers in the buildings.

And I get to wear shorts.

Every day.

Shorts at work.

It’s a little piece of heaven.

Technically I’m not even sure if I can call it work since all of the people that I am responsible for aren’t there.

But this will soon change.

On goes the tie which is the official sign that I’m open for business. And by open for business I mean bring me your troubles, concerns, and complaints.

I’m going to miss the shorts.

But it’s time to focus on the job at hand. Educating students.

The question is what’s the definition of educating students?

Is it grades? Test scores? College bound seniors?

I think all of these are important, but there are other factors we need to consider when deciding if a school has been successful.

Like, do your students graduate and get/hold jobs? Do they pay their taxes? And the ever important… do they mow their yards?

The mowing is especially important if they grow up and buy the house next to me.

Basically, are they productive citizens?

Once a student is out of high school there are only two options. They either make society better or they make it worse.

That’s why I think the definition of educating kids is helping produce good citizens.

Young people need the guidance and discipline that will allow them to grow up and do the right thing.

This is a big job and one that schools can’t accomplish alone.

Schools need the help of parents, families, churches, communities, coaches, and all kinds of other organizations.

I have a feeling there may be some people who disagree with me. People who think the school’s job is to teach addition, make students memorize state capitals, and convince kids they will use algebra later on in life. (Let the emails from math teachers begin!!)

All of this while still making AYP.

So to prove my point, let’s use me as an example.

I can’t remember the last time anyone asked or cared what I scored on my ACT test (by the way the science section was HARD!).

No one ever asks me for a copy of my high school transcript (or permanent record as it was known when I was a kid… just the thought of the information contained in that manila file folder falling into the wrong hands scares me).

I’m never quizzed on the capital of Vermont (no it’s not Burlington).

I seldom get in trouble when I don’t keep both feet on the floor while typing.

And last but not least… I have no idea what X is in X + Y – 14 = 2 trains left the station at 2:00 am and one was traveling at a speed of 42 miles an hour.

Yet, my neighbors can tell you I mowed my yard on Thursday.

So there you have it.

As educators we are not just producing test scores.

We are producing citizens.

People who grow up and do the right thing. Pay their taxes, volunteer, raise their kids, and hold jobs.

As a teacher or administrator you know you’ve done your job when a former student walks up and talks about his or her spouse, job, new house, or children’s accomplishments.

Odds are they won’t mention that Montpelier is the capital of Vermont.

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8 Responses to “Educators, Don’t Forget Our Goal: Teach Students to Mow Their Yards.”

  1. JayMan
    on Aug 2nd, 2009
    @ 10:08 pm

    I liked this entry. But, I hate to mow so I’m confused.

  2. Natalie Schwartz
    on Aug 3rd, 2009
    @ 8:25 am

    I agree that the goal of schools and teachers is to produce good citizens, not just high test scores. Which is why I’m concerned that the Obama administration is promoting the concept of performance pay and requiring states to evaluate teachers based on student achievement. As you indicate in your post, teachers (and schools) often have a positive effect on the social, emotional and character development of students. How do you measure those things and factor them into a teacher’s performance evaluation? As you also point out, teachers and schools are not solely responsible for a student’s academic success (or failure). A child’s education is a collaborative process. I’m interested in your view on the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” program and the potential ramifications for teachers. I expressed my concerns in my blog post last week and welcome you to take a look (

  3. Teacher 12
    on Aug 3rd, 2009
    @ 4:29 pm

    Very good post!

    And it reminded me that I need to mow.

  4. Angie
    on Aug 5th, 2009
    @ 12:26 pm

    My husband and I have dreamed of opening a charter school and requiring swimming (since everyone needs to know how to swim). I think we now need to add Mowing 101.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Angie, I can’t swim.

  5. Jim Wysocki
    on Aug 15th, 2009
    @ 4:40 pm

    I don’t disagree that we are producing good citizens, but your definition of a productive citizen is not very complete, “People who grow up and do the right thing. Pay their taxes, volunteer, raise their kids, and hold jobs.”

    I want people who pay taxes, but not blindly. People who volunteer, but at things that will make our world a better place. I want people to raise their kids well – not just raise them, and holding jobs – well you could say that for awhile the folks at Enron were holding jobs. And I also want people who are will to reject it all when appropriate.

    There is so much more to education than just good citizens. I feel this also can become very nation-centric. I want students who appreciate this country, but recognize that we are one human race regardless of our nationalities.

    I think you are on the right track here, and I doubt that there is any agreed upon definition that all would accept.

    Of course, maybe starting the dialogue is the point.

  6. Jack
    on Aug 15th, 2009
    @ 6:00 pm

    Those updates from former students are gold to teachers. For some added inspiration as the new year begins, I invite you to check out this short video — — about one teacher’s “aha moment” experienced when the impact of her work was recognized by a former student in a very special way. I hope you enjoy it, and best of luck this year.

    Thanks —

  7. Jared
    on Aug 18th, 2009
    @ 9:12 pm

    Great post. You always make me laugh.

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