The main purpose of the public school system is to provide the best education possible for students. Schools should prepare them to be good citizens and prepare them for the work force. The focus should be on instruction. As we know, the curriculum has expanded over the years but, nonetheless, instruction should be the focus.

But somewhere along the way, schools have come to believe that there has to be hoopla and entertainment added to the mix.

There’s no way schools can compete with the entertainment industry, nor should they try. Don’t get me wrong: Instruction needs to be engaging and varied. Different techniques must be used for different learning styles. Instructional games within the classroom keep things interesting. Using technology as a tool is necessary. However, we don’t need streamers and balloons.

Over the years, colleges have gone crazy, particularly with sports, and unfortunately, this has trickled down into high schools. Sports are NOT the main focus of public schools. I am fully aware that sports, band, or drama are often why some students want to come to school.

I understand that many receive scholarships due to their athletic ability. Certainly, the accomplishments of ALL students need to be recognized, whether it’s on the playing field, the stage or the academic team.

The extreme focus on sports, in many cases, is not the fault of the school system. They may be driven to it in search of funding or community involvement. However, the main thing, must be the main thing-instruction.

School days should revolve around the needs of the students for an education-not testing. Providing teachers and students with undisturbed instructional time is critical for success. Constantly interrupting class time increases the stress for teachers and students. The relationships that teachers and students develop are what keeps students coming back. Students know they are cared about and valued. These relationships are what develop school spirit.

It takes time and effort, for sure, but those are the meaningful connections that support learning. Bells and whistles are not necessary to make someone feel like part of the family. We are all aware of parents who try to “buy” the affections of their children with expensive gifts, but spend no time with them on a regular basis. The relationship is hollow and it doesn’t last.

Schools need to keep pace with the world. Many seem to think that schools need to provide the same frantic atmosphere we see on the internet and in other aspects of the world today. Many educators have gotten on the bandwagon rather than standing firm for what they know students need.

Legislators continue to put pressure on schools to do more, instead of focusing on basic instruction. Schools must now address some of the basic needs of children so that they are able to learn. More students are dealing with anxiety, trauma, and mental health issues. They need a steady, focused environment at school to succeed.

For many students, school is their safe place. It is a place where they get a hot meal, where things are familiar and regular. They come from homes where there is chaos, change and upheaval. Having a normal, regular routine is the foundation they need to settle in and focus on learning.

Schools are required to have numerous drills, which are necessary for the safety of our children. Some assemblies provide exposure to the arts or to speakers that students would never have the opportunity to see on their own.

But all the hype and interruption that some schools engage in are distractions from the real purpose of the school year.

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Elizabeth Hutchins is a former educator and Culpeper County

School Board member.

(1) comment

Carl Adams

Just as Ms Hutchison is passionate about education, others are passionate about sports, music and drama. I personally am not drawn to the education side of things, meaning education is not what keeps me involved with the scho system. It is however something I, as a 13 year volunteer at CCHS and EVHS, preach every step of the way to student athletes and any student I've been involved with. I've been blessed too many times over the years watching students grow and become successful in all steps of life. For me, those relationships may never have blossomed for me or the teachers and students with a sole focus on education. We each share in all the successes and failures of the students regardless of our primary motivation. Some more exceptional academically and some elsewhere. We should focus on every student. Much love to all educators, on and off the field. You all are amazing!

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