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op gilchristEvery attentive person knows there is a revolution occurring in language, and much of what was once communicated by words is now communicated by images. Texting is quicker than calling, snap chatting quicker than texting, and emoticons quicker than either. My students, for whom emoticons are second nature, are smart, and they have a thorough understanding of icons and symbols. Formal research and informal observations for the last decade tell us these students learn differently than previous generations. Their learning responds directly to their environment’s demands. They learn interactively. They learn through images. They learn through sound. Very few students learn primarily through the written word. And yet the state test they must pass for English IV is a variety of excerpts from literary works and historical documents, followed by multiple-choice questions. 

op gilchristMy weekdays begin at 5 a.m. I have time to drink coffee with my husband, thank him for making my lunch, make myself presentable and read, pray, and meditate. I also clean out the cat’s litter box, which is perhaps as important as anything in preparing me for the harsh truths of my students’ lives. I am three months into my 16th year of teaching public high school.

op educationBy Jim Hunt • Guest Columnist

Earlier this year, I called for a state commitment to raise teacher pay to the national average in the next four years. It was a bold proposal, but that’s what leaders do. Since that time, teachers got a raise, but what they didn’t get was a commitment. State lawmakers need to go back to the drawing board if they are going to show teachers that they are valued.

out franklinAll 11 Macon County schools will now have their own school resource officer, called an SRO, after county commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to institute the eleventh position at Cartoogechaye Elementary School. 

coverCarson Angel is excited to show off her reading skills as she waits outside East Franklin Elementary for her mom to pick her up. From the pile of hand-colored posters, worksheets and drawings at her feet, the 8-year-old picks out a small book made of quartered computer paper to read out loud. 

“We had to choose six animal facts and write them into sentences,” she explains. Each sentence is chockfull of everything you’d ever want to know about tigers. Carson had been a little too shy to read anything in front of her peers for the last-day-of-camp reading talent show, but one-on-one she’s all about it.  

fr teachersAdvocates calling for increased state education funding made a stop in Haywood County Monday as part of a statewide tour en route to Raleigh, where they will deliver a stack of petitions signed by 61,000 state residents later this week.

Local school leaders and educators are celebrating last week’s court ruling declaring a 2013 law that doles out a small raise for 25 percent of the state’s teachers — no more and no less — unconstitutional. 

fr horsesWhen summer school starts up at South Macon Elementary this year, a pair of horses will be standing in a round pen outside, waiting for their first playmates. The equines will be helping Macon TRACS, a nonprofit dedicated to providing horse therapy to people with special needs, try out a pilot program bringing horses to the schools.

fr hccHaywood Community College is entering phase two of a process it started last spring when trustees decided it was time to clean up the college’s mission statement and come up with some focused goals for the future. 

op frThe Smoky Mountain News published an excellent analysis of the controversy centered on the current legislation called the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” in the Jan. 29 issue (www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/12377). SMN Staff Writer Holly Kays presented this material in exemplary form. 

I was particularly struck by the quote that is attributed to Rep. Roger West, our elected official from Marble. He said, “I think anybody that wants to make a decision to go to a private school, they ought to be able to do it, and they ought to be able to recoup what the state allocates for each student.” This seems like a strange system of reasoning to come from a representative who has sworn to uphold the laws of North Carolina (based on our constitution). Since 1789 North Carolina has provided public education opportunities for all of her citizens. Few would claim that the system has been perfect. Few would claim that our elected officials have acted perfectly all of the time. This, unfortunately, is one of those times when a group of elected officials has used very poor judgment. This will entangle state/local agencies and organizations in a costly legal battle to overturn this bad legislation.

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