Utility bills

As you may have seen in your last utility bill and on the Village of Holley’s website, you can now pay for your municipal electric and water bills online. While convenient, be sure to read the fine print. You are charged a fee for this service. By the month, the extra amount does not seem all that much, but if you multiply that figure by 12 months in a year, it adds up. With so many bills coming your way, my advice to you is to mail your payment… or better yet… save on postage and stop by the Village office to pay your utility bills.

It takes a village to educate a child

Recently, Buffalo Business First wrote an article serving as a Guide to Western NY Schools, which ranked area schools. At the top of the list of 97 school districts were Williamsville followed by East Aurora and Clarence, At the bottom of the list were Holley at 91, followed by Canaseraga (92), Niagara Falls (93), Salamanca (94), Dunkirk (95), Lackawanna (96), and finally Buffalo (97). Since the article came out in mid-June, there’s been plenty of finger-pointing going on around town and on Facebook as to who is to blame. Parents blame poor teachers; teachers blame bad parenting; and area residents blame the highly paid superintendant for “not doing something more” since Holley has not ranked well for the last 10 years. If that is not enough, the “victim of poverty” card is often played up… meaning somehow student failure is linked to how much money their parents earn or don’t earn. So from the get go, let’s get rid of the victim mentality and dispel the myth that poverty prevents learning. If Holley’s demographics were the real reason for student failure, then it would stand to reason that other area school districts with similar demographics would be doing just as poorly. The truth is, they’re not. In fact, Kendall ranked #42, Lyndonville ranked #53, and Albion ranked #62. So poverty is not the culprit and so let’s move on. Next… stop the finger pointing and the “cry-baby” talk; rather, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves: Why are our students failing and what are we going to do about it? According to educator, John Holt in his book How Children Fail, children are instinctively curious and love to learn. On the flip side, they hate to be taught. So if our children are failing, it is due to: Boredom, Fear of Failure, and Lack of Relevance.

1. Boredom. According to Mr. Holt, students are bored because “the things they are taught to do in school are so trivial, so dull, and make such limited and narrow demands on their wide spectrum of their intelligence, capabilities, and talents.” So essentially, we are not allowing our young to reach their potential using the intelligence, capabilities, and talents they have had since birth! Now that does not sound like a far stretch seeing that teachers are required to teach a core curriculum that the state deems critical, then tying state aid to student performance. In turn, school districts are holding teachers accountable from a performance and pay standpoint for how well students do on these state tests. So rather than encouraging our youth to use their talents to acquire new knowledge, skills, and experiences, or to use their creativity and critical thinking skills to demonstrate new ways of thinking or doing something, teachers are force-feeding our youth to memorize meaningless facts. It’s no wonder our students are bored. We are disengaging our youth from the learning experience right from the start!

2. Fear of Failure. From the time they are little, students are taught at home, at school, and on the playground that it is not ok to make a mistake. What’s more, if they make a mistake, they are labeled “stupid”, learning disabled, or just “not good enough” to amount to anything good much less great. By any measurement, failure means our students are not measuring up to an arbitrary set of expectations. By doing this, we are actually telling our youth that who they are as individuals does not matter; that they must fit a “cookie cutter” mold we’ve created, rather than encouraging them to celebrate their unique interests, intelligence, and talents. It’s our loss too as what they have to offer may actually make our world a much better place to live someday. Within this context, we are instilling fear in our youth, which is then impacting their ability to learn. With fear a powerful motivator for not doing anything, we are squashing any desire our students may have to learn, and this is impacting what they learn, how they learn, and the amount of confidence they have (or don’t have) to learn what it is we want them to learn.

3. Lack of Relevance – When students are taught rather than shown how to learn, they do not see a clear link between what they are given in the classroom with what they are expected to know in the real world. It’s no wonder, they keep asking us “what’s in it for me?” Without a legitimate answer or a real world connection, students do not see the benefits of learning what they are taught. They instead give up and say “Why bother?”

Sounds simple enough. Students are not looking to be taught; rather they are looking to us for guidance on how to learn. It then begs the question… who is really failing whom? Is it really our students who are failing us, or is it we who is failing our students with our antiquated education system? From the reasons stated above and mounting research, it would appear that it is we, not our students, who are failing. In fact, countless research says that students are leaving our schools ill prepared to enter the workplace, lacking the core skills, knowledge, and motivation they need to succeed. So how do we go about fixing this?

Hillary Clinton once said, it takes a village to raise (and educate) our children. As a village, we need to change our mindset. Starting today, stop asking our students to memorize a bunch of meaningless facts for the sake of image, whether it be for state tests, regional surveys, parental approval, teacher accountability, state monies, or school district ranking. Next… look for fresh alternatives. The greatest one being… lead by being a living, breathing example of what it means to be life long learners. Demonstrate by word and deed every day just how much we love to learn. By doing this, we are instilling the same in our youth. Read rather watch television or play video games. Go out and explore the beautiful world that is around us. Engage our young in a variety of learning activities around town to quell boredom. Take up a new sport the whole family can enjoy. Dust off that old clarinet that sits at the back of your closet, take a few music lessons so you can  play alongside your chid, and join a community band. Take a class at the library, museum, or art gallery to perfect known talents and discover new ones. Join a family-friendly meetup group to go hiking, biking, or skiing. Or share your love of cooking with others. As you explore and learn new things, share them. Encourage our young people to take risks, to embrace failure, and to apply whatever lessons taken away from those experiences to strengthen weaknesses. As we do, we are showing our young all the while how to overcome fears, and more importantly  …what it really takes to succeed. Finally… if nothing else… show by your example that learning occurs everywhere, in a variety of ways, not just in school, and does not have to cost anything. Looking to us as an example in how to learn, our youth then have a role model as well as an opportunity to see what’s in it for them. Seeing knowledge in action, they learn first hand what it means to be prepared for whatever they are presented with tomorrow.