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Sat, Aug. 24

Column: Give one of these 10 gifts to education, youth

Getting involved in children's education can be as simple as volunteering to read to them. (Courier file photo)

Getting involved in children's education can be as simple as volunteering to read to them. (Courier file photo)

Education is an intangible for most people. Few of us fully grasp the concept, especially public education (K-12).

Seriously, we see the benefits early on: Joey or Sally get out of Mom’s hair for several hours a day, they learn things and have homework, and they grow into young adults.

Right. Yet, as I have stated in this space before, the system is broken. Just this past week the Courier reported about a new study showing nearly 2,000 teaching positions in Arizona remain vacant four months into the school year.

That is mostly because of low salaries, red tape and bureaucracy. Instead, the study of 172 districts and charter schools found more than 3,400 teaching positions that schools had hoped to fill this year are being staffed by individuals not meeting standard teaching requirements.

Folks, we are losing battles and the war remains.

Parents do not get involved as much. Many seniors are “done with that.” Lawmakers rejoice at even an incremental “fix” when something else makes that step forward, two steps back. We complain about taxes, but do not believe in the test scores when all we hear is Arizona ranks at the bottom in school funding.

We must all take a step back and realize each entity — each of us, no matter our stage of life, family, or business/career — has responsibilities when it comes to educating our youth.

Along those lines, today — Christmas Eve — I wish a present for every Arizona, Yavapai County, and Prescott-area student-age child at least one of the following gifts — which our leaders, politicians, administrators, teachers, parents, and neighbors must deliver. This is adapted from a recent essay, “Ten Perfect Gifts,” by Dick Foreman, president and CEO of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.

1 – Ensure that every child has a good breakfast. Children who start the day with food will be healthier and will have one less thing to fret over.

2 – Make sure every child gets proper rest and sleep. A tired, zombie-like student will not be fully concentrating on school work.

3 – Set high expectations and goals for all children. If we expect less, we will get less. This can come from parents and community members.

4 – Understand that homework time is sacred time. Protect this vital space in your child’s schedule.

5 – Communicate with teachers. Share the insights and personality traits of your child with their teachers. Volunteer to chaperon trips or events. Opportunities to communicate are limited only by our imagination and willingness to engage.

6 – Respect a child’s goals and objectives from their perspective. Help them celebrate achievements, and encourage them by listening and showing support.

7 – Understand that every student will fail at something. Yes, it might be a test, a class, an extracurricular activity, or a friendship. Even a slight acknowledgment or encouraging word might be what they need to hear; at the same time, teach personal responsibility.

8 – Support extracurricular activity. That can range from a student’s sport to involvement in band or a club. This also includes empty-nesters finding some time to get involved in these activities, to help or give back to the community.

9 – Commit to being a leader. Get involved. Make a difference, which means giving more than taking. “My kids are gone, I’ve paid my dues.” No, you still live here in this community. From childhood to being senior citizens, we are life-long learners … and givers. This could entail volunteering, helping review and set policy, even helping to drive the movement.

10 – Engage. Do you get the theme here? We can all improve our public schools by one great gift; pledge some of your precious time. We can celebrate all year, and all life, by giving a little bit of our time. How much time? Oh, how about all you can spare, and one hour more a week.

Remember, it is always better to give than to receive. That is not only a Christmas lesson, it applies also to our families, the community, and public education.

And, as Foreman ended his column: Oh, and what about the Grinch and Scrooge? Well, as Arizona Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians says about making poor decisions, “Don’t be that guy!”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior editor of The Daily Courier. He also serves as president of the Yavapai County Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2032, or

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