Wednesday, February 22, 2017

BGS: Teaching Students to Read

Reading is the most important factor that leads to academic success. In fact, research shows students who can’t read well often give up trying to learn, period.   

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Institute of Literary Pursuit,14 percent of the population in the United States can’t read, 21 percent of adults read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school students can’t read when they graduate. Those statistics are about the same as 10 years ago.

In other words, with the billions of dollars the federal government throws at public schools to improve education little of it sticks to the wall.

Furthermore, according to the Department of Justice, 85 percent of all juveniles in the judicial court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of Americans in prison cannot read above a fourth grade level.  

However, in spite of the national inefficiency, the curriculum in Bayard’s Grade School emphasizes teaching students to read, and it starts in Kindergarten.

During the first semester, Kindergarten students learn the alphabet along with other basics like recognizing numbers and how to spell their names. During second semester, they’ll learn the sounds of the letters and practice their new-found skills with “See Spot run” type books.

When these Kindergartners start grade school, they and the other grade school students set yearly reading goals that are broken down into quarters. The books they choose to read are worth points and range from one point for a small-one-chapter-book to 15-20 points for a Harry Potter type book, and anywhere in between.

At the end of a quarter students are awarded prizes for accomplishing their reading goals, based on the number of points they’ve earned. Prizes range from activities like a game day at school, roller skating, bowling, swimming, and rock climbing.

This year 91 students met their reading goals. The grade schools objective is for 150 students to reach their chosen standard.

If, perchance, you didn’t notice, the rewards are all physical activities, which is not a coincidence. 

The grade schools faculty and administration decided to pursue two objectives with one activity; they combined a sedentary pursuit, reading, with the above mentioned physical activity awards.

One good turn deserves another.

For ideas about different reading programs Bayard teachers visited other area schools. From a-give-and-take approach of different programs, Bayard’s Grade School now has a reading plan that’s solely based on age, grade level, and ability. To achieve this standard, teachers test reading levels and assign students accordingly; mobile students take a reading test their first day in school.

Since Bayard’s Grade School started its reading program, representatives from area schools now visit Bayard to observe their initiative in action, as I had the pleasure of doing.  

Good job BGS.

(I hope I reach my reading goal this semester.)


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mr. & Ms. High School Sports

At BHS, set within the parameters of a track featuring designated lanes is a field / hardwood court. On one end is a basket hanging atop a ten foot pole, the other end is bracketed with goalposts, and a net stretches across the middle.  

The ensemble slowly rotates nine months of the year so that each section faces the rising sun, at its allotted time.

Its home for Bayard’s Sports Family; the siblings are football, basketball, volleyball, track, and wrestling. For consolidation purposes, basketball, wrestling, and volleyball, all bunk on the hardwood court to face that rising sun. 

As one, Bayard’s Sports Family is familiar with the popular saying: “you’re gonna win some and lose some, and some are called because of rain.”

Members of Bayard’s Sports Family understand winning and losing, and they understand that the coin flip is either heads or tails, nothing in between. However, events “called because of rain” are neither heads nor tails and are difficult to comprehend, and accept, especially when it involves an entire season.

Nevertheless, in real life, “called because of rain” may be the one forecast a person experiences the most. Therefore, it’s true that sports, in a rough and tumble way, teaches participants about the truism “called because of rain”.

Let’s face it; overall, it’s been tough sledding the last few years for some of Bayard’s Tiger-land sports. This is in spite of Tiger teams touching the four individual bases of positive attitudes, willingness to improve fundamentals, desire, and listening to coaches.

But, doggone it, instead of four bases being a homerun it started raining and hasn’t stopped.

Well, the rough and tumble lesson that sports teaches is that it’s possible, and probable, some things in real life will be “called because of rain”, and not go the way they’re planned. It may involve college, a job, a career, marriage, children, or spirituality, you name it.

What do sports teach about being “called because of rain? Even though it rains on your parade, you keep on keeping on. You keep putting on the pads and helmet, you keep shooting baskets, you find your lane and run another race, jump higher and slam harder, or learn how to avoid being pinned.  

If you’ve prepared for the next step, nothing can defeat you, not even death.

Yes, Bayard High School Sports family, it may have rained on your parade, but there’s no need to let it wash you away. Grab your towel of preparation and dry off, somewhere there’ll be another game, another season, another set of circumstances, but this time you’ll know all about “called because of rain”.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Christian Life is Delicious

Darren glared at his wife and vicious words slipped and slid off his tongue. “That’s it Donna, I’ll be back tomorrow and by then maybe you’ll sleep some sense into your thick head.”

He grabbed his parka from the corner closet nestled in the entryway of their home and burst out the front door slamming it shut. Not having the parka’s hood over his head the slamming door caused freshly fallen snow to slip off the porch roof and down his neck.

Darren looked for steam escaping from under his shirt and parka collars. He thought about laughing, but that would ruin this self-righteous moment.

In a few swift man-strides he reached the main sidewalk and turned right, but he turned too sharply. His foot slipped on the slick surface, but he caught his balance before he fell.

He stopped and pondered the last few moments. The words uttered, the snow down his neck, and then almost falling. “Oh well, such is life.”

Letting his feet play GPS he passed “Shoppers Delight”, a small suburban mall. “Ok nose, find where that smell of cinnamon roll and coffee is coming from.” He found the scent factory and slipped into a booth.

A waitress soon faced him with order pad and pen.                                                                     

“Just a cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee.

“Cream with your coffee?”

“Naa, black, and I want the roll that I smelled outside on the sidewalk; the one that wouldn’t let me walk by without stopping.

“Sure enough, I’ve been saving it for you since the day before yesterday.”

“Wow, you’re like the weather tonight, very sharp.”

She smiled and went to get his treats.

Darren noticed a wrinkled newspaper lying next to him. He started to pick it up but decided he didn’t want to read anymore about the presidential election.

“Here’s your roll and coffee, enjoy.”

He bit into the roll. Its warmth and softness slipped across his tongue. It reminded him of Donna. Her softness followed by the warmth of her arms around his neck.

Putting the last of his daydream into his mouth he followed it with hot coffee that slid down his esophagus. He left a $10 bill on the table and ventured outside to tonight’s life of cold loneliness.

Darren saw a “Vacancy” sign a couple blocks away, which was a flashing advertisement for his bed that night.

He looked around the room; the sparsely furnished nook matched the moment. “Why did I say those things to Donna? They were out before I even knew they were in.”

He grabbed the remote and flipped through the channel guide; he turned it off “I can see this junk at home, with somebody.”

Darren lay in the bed; it felt huge. He stretched out one arm and felt nothing but empty vastness. He extended his other arm, but, this time, his hand touched something lying on the bedside stand. 

He lifted his head and looked. The words Holy Bible scorched his eyes and his reflexes deflected his hand off the Bible and back to the safety of the bed.

Lying there, his nerve and inquisitiveness prevailed and he reached out and put his finger on the Bible. Then he sat up on the edge of the bed and gingerly picked it up.

He opened it to the title page; it, too, said Holy Bible.

He flipped a page and found an index, then an introduction to the Bible, and a section about how the Bible came into existence. Then he came to Genesis 1:1 and read it out loud. “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.”

Darren laid his hand on the page and then turned it over to look at his palm. No burns, except for the one in his heart.
Slipping into the depth of the pages he began to read, genealogies and all. About an hour later he looked up and descriptive phrases slipped off his tongue headed for his heart.

“I didn’t think it would taste that good; it’s full of flavor, satisfying, aromatic. Its words were smooth, sweet and sour, smelling like life. They soothed my ears and were soft to my eyes.”

Jesus Christ walked Darren home that night. Darren rang the bell and Donna opened the door. He responded to her with a special seasoning that allowed the delicious taste of Christianity to effortlessly slip off his tongue.

Scripture from the NASB


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trout in the Classroom

In Mrs. Jenna Krul’s fifth-grade classroom is a 55 gallon aquarium filled with 52 degree water. Any day now, if it hasn’t happened already, the tank will share that water with 150-200 Rainbow trout eggs.

Mrs. Krul’s class, and the rest of the grade school for that matter, will watch those eggs become baby trout and grow to maturity.  

After passing a pre-test to determine their attitude about the project, and agreeing to a post-project test about what they learned, the fifth-graders raised Bayard’s Grade School banner of excellence and qualified for the grant.

The grant came from the Nebraska Game and Parks and the funds through the Nebraska 
Environmental Trust. It included the tank, equipment for the tank, and the eggs, which came from Montana. In addition, Scottsbluff’s Home Depot donated $75.00 worth of aquarium necessities.

The trout eggs will arrive in the eye stage, (probably so they could find their way from Montana to Bayard,) and will look something like floating black eyes. At this stage of development they’re about 12 days from hatching, and it will be around 27 days until they can swim.

(Isn’t birth interesting: These fish are born in water but can’t yet swim, birds are born in treetops but can’t yet fly, and human babies are born on land but can’t yet walk???)

After the preliminaries promoted wide-eyed anticipation, the learning process included the promise of plenty of classroom participation. The fifth-graders learned how to set up and fill the tank, check the water for nitrates, insulate around the sides of the tank to keep the water cool, and decorate the trout’s habitat.

To make the baby trout feel at home, along with under-water decor, the class decorated the outside the tank with made-in-the-classroom paper plant life. It looked good. I hope the baby trout appreciate the effort.

They may bump their fish-noses on the end of the tank because it looks so real they may think they’re in a stream.

The class will care for the baby trout until they’re grown; then they will ship them to Montana where they’ll be kept in an aquarium for display purposes. The grant included the cost to ship the trout north.

After the babies are grown, the fish hatchery in Montana will sent the class grown trout prepared for them to dissect, explore, and study the internal organs.

To share their experience, the fifth-graders will make videos with commentaries and post them on Facebook.

The classes response to the project included “it’s gonna be fun,” and “it’s a cool thing to do.” Also, because many of them are familiar with trout, they’re anxious to learn about their habits and of course dissect the samples sent to them.

When asked if they were going to name the fish they said they were going to name them all “Bob.”

I’m just gonna leave it at that.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Luxury of Home

Joe’s spiritual eyes fought the tangle of confusing and congested growth that confronted him. Beyond his present turmoil, he foresaw a paradoxical, learned, and luscious life. It seemed eons away, but the freshness of what he sensed pushed him forever forward. He took a step, and whoosh, the thick brush slapped him in the face. It stung. He touched his nose and looked at his finger. He saw blood.

A “Dang” etched its way through Joe’s clenched teeth. “Hope that’s not an omen.” However, an omen didn’t scratch the surface of the harshness he faced. With his proverbial machete, one whack after another, he carved a path through the underbrush that always seemed denser than he believed he had the power to break through.

Each time, though, he found the strength to chop one more time until he found a wide spot in the undergrowth. Each time, though, he’d find a place where he could sit and rejuvenate and experience joy and satisfaction. Joe didn’t understand, but it seemed that although his slashing and hacking didn’t get easier, or less frequent, he felt he didn’t need to rest as long in those wide spots.

Frequently, he’d find two interwoven paths that appeared to lead to the destination he felt gently, but firmly, led to discover. Nevertheless, the two paths would eventually veer off in different directions and he had to choose which one to travel.

He always had to choose between a narrow path and a wide one.

At first he’d travel a ways on each path before deciding which one to follow. He found that he always had to hack brush on the narrow path, but the undergrowth on the wide path was always beaten down and he didn’t need to hack.

But, the thought of changing paths never really tempted Joe. He stayed on the narrow one because that’s the one he been on since he started, and he knew he shouldn’t change routes in the middle of a journey.

Besides, on the narrow one he knew he’d get glimpses of the luscious life that lay ahead, but that didn’t hold true with the wide path.

Whenever he tired and felt he couldn’t hack anymore, Joe knew a rest spot would appear that would bring a reprieve from struggling. It always came. Whenever he rested from his trials, he’d look through the brush to try and glimpse that luscious life that lie ahead.

Sometimes he’d get a glimpse and sometimes he wouldn’t, but even when he didn’t he knew it existed and at an appointed time he’d be there.

One day, while resting, Joe felt he could no longer find the strength to fight the thick brush on the narrow path. He simply wanted to stay in that wide spot and not go any further.  

Without actually getting there, his brush cutter, his lifelong partner and faithful companion, had guided him as close to the luxurious living as possible.

In total peace and fearing no evil, Joe, who’d fought the good fight on the narrow path, lie down and put his well worn brush cutter on his chest. In peace, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

He awoke in a rich green pasture and felt rested. For the first time ever he felt a complete rest. The soft and thick grass tenderly held his head in its green warmth and softly supported his body. He wiggled his fingers and toes and the blades slipped between all twenty of them and left a tingly sensation.

He turned his head and his eyes settled on still waters. The waters didn’t ripple or have waves. Like Joe, lying in the soft, thick, green grass, the waters lay in perfect peace. His mind whirled. “Wow, in this paradoxical, learned, and luxurious life even the waters are peaceful.”

In perfect peace, with no fear, he now understood the rod and staff. They protected him from his enemies, including himself. The presence of God anointed him. Good news and mercy surrounded him. He’s home, forever in the house of the Lord.

A shadow eclipsed Joe, and he looked up and saw his Shepherd holding his eternal staff. “His Lord said to him, ‘Well done good and faithful shepherd; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matt. 25: 21

Scripture is from the NKJV

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

BHS: Changing Teaching Methods

In an interview with Thomas Perlinski, Bayard’s High School Principal, he talked about two diverse methods of teaching, and the difference between the methods. “One focuses on teaching individuals while the other teaches toward the middle, which is the majority of students.

“Both methods, though, have the same deficiency; they omit a segment of students. Teach towards the individual and the middle is neglected; teach towards the middle and the individual is neglected.

“The answer, of course, is to teach both methods so everybody’s included and learning; the question is how to do that. Regardless, it’s imperative for teachers to learn how to teach both methods because if they don’t, a segment of students become disengaged, and a disengaged student becomes a troublemaker.”

However, over the years, teaching has swung towards educating the middle.

But, in parts of the United States, like Western Nebraska, there’s a need to teach towards individuals because an above average number of students don’t go to a four-year college. They want to farm or ranch, be plumbers, welders, mechanics, in health care, office work, or join the Armed Forces.

Perlinski emphasized there’s nothing wrong with these careers and they’re needed, but a four-year degree is not a prerequisite. “However, if a school’s curriculum caters toward these type students it ignores students who want professional careers and need to go to a four-year college and often beyond.

To bring both ends towards the middle, high school teachers and guidance counselors are learning how to prepare students for trade schools, community colleges, and four year colleges, depending on the student’s preference. It means adjusting curriculums to include prerequisites for these institutions and counseling students about their choices.

Technology is the answer because it allows students to further their education in the type of post graduate school they need to get the degree they want. Online, they can take the courses they need to enroll in one of these post-high school places of learning.

Even if a student doesn’t know for sure what they want career wise, they don’t need to go to four year college to search for the answer. Trade schools can lead to productive careers with firms like Caterpillar, John Deere, or other ventures.

In addition, community colleges offer remedial courses some students need in order to enroll where they want to further their education.

Perlinski mentioned ways high schools like Bayard can help students prepare for their future:

-Provide “success coaches” who help scholastic underachievers catch up.
-Offer advanced industrial and agriculture programs.
-Counsel about Career Academies where students get certificates for agriculture, mechanics, construction, etc.
-Guidance Counselors to help students prepare for further education.

Bayard’s Public Schools are learning how to focus on the education their student’s desire, whether it’s agriculture, constructions, or a career that requires at least a degree from a four-year college. The goal is to let students decide and teachers and counselors guide.   


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Seniors, Loneliness, and Pets

Sometimes, an aside of the so-called Golden Years of retirement is loneliness. Usually, loneliness makes its appearance via one of the dastardly “D’s”, which are relationship destroyers like divorce, debilitating disease, and death.

When a dastardly “D” raises its ugly head, Seniors may find themselves alone and lonely. They have difficulty coping because they’re experiencing the loss of a loved one. Even though the loved one may still be alive, the relationship is dead.

Fortunately, there are ways to somewhat fill that void, and one is having a pet.

In an article a few months ago I mentioned my new cat MC, i.e. My Cat. I wasn’t looking for a pet, 
but the opportunity presented itself. I like cats, and after first saying no I changed my mind, and the rest is history. MC’s now about 9 months old, spade and front claws removed.

She’s my bud. We’ve learned each other’s personality quirks and how, so-to-speak, to abide in the same abode. I talk to her as if she was human, and she meows back as if she understands what I’m talking about.

Come bedtime we sleep in the same bed. She snuggles next to me and lays her head on my arm. However, cats are nocturnal and occasionally she’ll wake me in the middle of the night playing in the bedroom.

She’s also my alarm clock and knows I feed her when I get up between 6 and 6:30. However, if I’m not up within that time frame she jumps on my chest to let me know she thinks I should get out of bed.

When I’m at my computer, which is most of the time, she’s generally in the vicinity. She’ll lie on my lap, play in the room, or nap in the overstuffed chair next to my desk.

I’ve trained her to my specs with a squirt bottle of water. It took awhile, but now she’s well behaved. 

If she gets rowdy, all I do is pick up the squirt bottle and she knows what comes next, so she obeys.

I admit MC fills a void I didn’t know was there.   

Try a pet; I’ll bet you enjoy the experience.