By Sarah Malone
Through a series of unusual events, I recently found myself teaching the seventh and eighth grade Spanish classes at Buckhannon Upshur Middle School for several weeks. It was a unique and fulfilling experience. It was also very eye-opening. I want to share what I have learned as an “outsider” entering the public-school environment.
First of all, I would just like to congratulate the parents of Upshur County. You have great kids! Those smart, kind and very chatty kids won me over in no time! I witnessed so many reasons to hope for the future of our community. I saw kids show true gratitude, thanking me on several occasions for teaching them. I saw kids include and show kindness to members of the class who were struggling or had special needs. I saw them encourage each other to pay attention, be kind, and give their best effort. I saw them learn to be interested in a new and unfamiliar subject. I didn’t see any reason to believe that our middle schoolers aren’t capable of anything we could hope for in their future. They’ve got it!
I would also like to validate everything the public-school teachers have been saying forever. Teaching is an incredibly difficult job! I spent hours preparing for each class. I spent a fortune on supplies to make the class more fun or more meaningful, or to just make it my own! I struggled and mostly failed to keep up with grading, making adjustments for kids with special needs, and to find ways to accommodate kids who were quarantined, sick, or needed extra help. I have no idea how teachers manage it all! I came home every day after school utterly exhausted. I had to take a quick nap just to make it through my own family’s evening activities. My compassion and respect for the teachers grew substantially during this time.
My biggest takeaway from the whole experience was an overwhelming conviction that our kids deserve the absolute best we can give them. And our teachers deserve all the help we can offer. As I walked through the halls of the middle school, I noticed walls and ceilings and floors, all in disrepair. Ancient bathrooms, crumbling walls and limited resources are what we are providing for our kids and teachers now. Can’t we do better?
I have always been proud of Buckhannon’s community spirit. We are the people who support local businesses at all costs. We are the people who show up for craft fairs, community yard sales, football games and parades, Festival Fridays, and especially the Strawberry Festival. We have worked hard for our beautiful Main Street with stunning floral displays throughout the summer and fun holiday décor in the winter. We are the people who care.
And that’s why I say we need to vote for the new school. If you’re the person who frequents our local businesses, you should vote for the new school. You care about our local economy. You should know that better schools bring educated families, small business owners, and the kind of people who can and do support our local economy.
If you’re the kind of person who shows up to parades, festivals, and sporting events, you should vote for the new school. You understand the value of culture and community. The new school plan includes additional practice fields and improved sports and band facilities. Better schools bring better coaches, more winning teams, better bands, orchestras, choirs, and drama programs.
If you have kids or grandkids, you should vote for the new school. Our kids deserve the best we have to offer. Better schools attract better teachers, administrators, better families moving to our community, better sports teams and music programs, and better opportunities through trade and college prep classes. Our kids need this. Better schools can help.
If you care about our county’s drug problem, mental health issues among our young people, or even the overall health of our community, you should vote for the new school. Idle kids are way more susceptible to drugs and depression. The more programs and opportunities we can provide for our kids, the fewer will fall prey to these problems. The more of our kids involved in sports and recreation, the healthier our community will be overall.
I spent time in our school system. Now I know more than ever how important it is to give our kids everything we can. They deserve it. Our community deserves it. I know I will be voting in favor of the new school. Will you?