Saturday, June 2, 2012
School Was Never This Much Fun In My Day
Another school year is drawing to a close. Of course, the ne’er-do-wells and the scofflaws are always griping about the school system, harkening back to some imagined golden era. Well, that’s just a bunch of sour grapes. I’ve been keeping track of news stories about the local schools right here in America’s heartland, and I can tell you some very inspiring things are going on. Here’s just a sampling of the uplifting stories I’ve run across in the Cincinnati Enquirer. All of these are real, though names have been changed to protect the innocent.
We Southwest Ohioans are fortunate to have dedicated teachers who rely on Midwestern family values in order to instill truth and morality in their pupils. The best example is eighth grade science teacher Jon Frishwatter of Mount Vernon, OH, who has creatively infused his otherwise boring science curriculum with fascinating ideas from fundamentalist Christian doctrine (1). Always the advocate of critical thinking, Frishwatter states that his goal as a science teacher is to generate skepticism toward modern science. Thus he keeps a stack of Bibles available on his classroom desk and supplies a Christian rendition of topics like evolution and homosexuality. Some parents complained that Frishwatter went too far when he started burning crucifixes into his students’ arms. However, the community should tolerate a certain degree of over-enthusiasm when it’s in the pursuit of eternal truth.
While our fundamentalist teachers are innovative, this doesn’t mean that they’re wishy-washy. To the contrary, many enforce rigorous standards. Take the example of Christoff Robersan who teaches at Camp Ehrnst Middle School in Broone County. Robersan not only runs a tight ship in the classroom, but he extends his teaching techniques to his child-rearing as well. Just recently he was arrested for beating his son with a leather belt because the son wasn’t successful in hopping on one foot on a cul-de-sac (2). He also beats his son with a belt if the son doesn’t swim fast enough, doesn’t clean his room completely, or gets a low grade at school. Confronted with the many bruises on the boy’s body, Robersan explained that they come from falling down at the swimming pool. The local judge acquitted him, concluding that Robersan may be a strict disciplinarian, but there’s no crime in that.
In my day Gym teachers were the strictest, and I’m glad to see that’s still the case. Veteran St. Bernard-Elmwood Place gym teacher Rich Stabler got into trouble when he hit one of his female students in the head with a basketball (3). Later he smacked another unruly male student with a basketball as well. Stabler’s lawyer argued that the school board was just punishing the coach because he hadn’t given enough playing time to a board member’s child. Besides, the lawyer argued, the school’s soccer coach smacked a player in the face with a water bottle, then required the whole team to undress in the parking lot after they lost a game. Nothing had been done to him. The judge ruled that there’s no law in the state of Ohio that says that teachers can’t throw basketballs at their students’ heads.
In this era of standardized testing, our local teachers are dedicated to enhancing their students’ performance. A paragon is math teacher Scott Muylers of Charles Seppelt Elementary School in suburban Milford (4). Muylers regularly uses study guides to prepare his students for upcoming tests, and he has found that they are most effective when the study guide contains exactly the same items in the same order as the questions on the state exam. Some of the children, ingrates that they are, were confused by this and complained to other teachers. Mr. Muylers was suspended for three months, but we’re sure that he will be back to continue his excellent methods next year.
Modern technology has has opened up lots of rewarding communication between teachers and students. Mason H.S. gym teacher Stacey Schuller (5) is a prime example since she frequently texts her students after class hours. Apparently some parents must have misinterpreted this because the city police charged Ms. Schuller with “inappropriate text messages,” and she has been ordered to stay away from school grounds and to have absolutely no contact with students. As it turned out, she has also been sleeping with five of the school’s football players. But isn’t that what texting is all about?
In nearby West Chester there’s also been some official misunderstanding of a teacher’s creative use of technology (6). Just because fifth grade teacher Ryan Falkenkamp takes his male students on trips out of town, gives them alcohol, takes art photographs of their private parts, and stores the results on his school-issued laptop computer for later sharing with men across the country, the FBI has chosen to investigate Falkenkamp’s caring relation with his students. High school students, of course, are even more adept at new uses for technology than are their teachers. When Mason school authorities confiscated a male student’s cell phone for using it during school hours, they found nude photos of several of his 15-year-old female classmates (7). Stodgy as they are, school officials petitioned the Ohio State legislature to update laws to be more attuned to modern technology.
Contemporary students, far from being passive or alienated, bring positive energy to their schools. Often this takes the form of amusing pranks. In Lockland, for example, twenty senior students, most of them top athletes and cheerleaders, snuck into school at night, planning to move all of the books from the library to the cafeteria (8). Finding the library locked up, they instead sprinkled rubber bands on the stairways, hung posters about their “Class of Dimes”, and began filling Dixie Cups with water to place in the corridors. Police officers, tipped off by neighbors entered with drawn guns and K-9 dogs; then chased down, caught, and handcuffed the fleeing students. One boy was held at Taser point; another was treated by a paramedic squad for a panic attack. Horrified parents complained that this was simply a senior prank and that at least one mother had driven her son to the school to participate. The police, however, said, “It’s not amusing to us. We take this very, very serious.”
Three teens in Mason came up with the amusing idea of disconnecting the heating blocks from all of the system’s school buses on a frigid January morning (9). Much to the joy of their classmates, all classes were cancelled. It did cost the school about $300,000 lost in salaries, wasted food, etc. but these children will probably grow up to be CEO’s in the banking industry. While we know it’s not politically correct to joke about terrorist threats these days, a 15-year-old Madeira H.S. student told various classmates that he had a gun and intended to kill 20 of his classmates who had been bullying him (10). The police found a lot of guns in his home, but they were locked up securely, and they couldn’t find his list of twenty names (10). Maybe the kid kept the list in his head.
There’s a lot of discussion these days about bullying in the schools, and we are proud to see that Cincinnati area schools are holding their own. A typical case occurred when fifteen-year-old DeWayne Moolis was listening to music while riding home at the back of his Middletown High School bus and three fellow schoolmates grabbed him from behind, held a cigarette lighter flame to his face, pulled back his hood, and then lit his hair on fire. The fire burned down to the scalp, and his outraged mother said that if he’d used gel on his hair his head would have caught fire. The perpetrators, a freshman and two juniors, were charged with aggravating menacing, assault, and arson and are currently being held in the juvenile detention center. DeWayne decided to get a haircut
It’s not only local students and teachers who are performing admirably, but staff members are part of the upbeat school culture as well. This is important because the schools face such grave fiscal difficulties, and innovative thinking is crucial. Take the case of the cooks at New Britain schools who found that boll weevils had built nests in the packages of noodles used for school lunches (12). Rather than waste precious money on new noodles, the cooks painstakingly picked out the boll weevils one by one, then carefully boiled the noodles before serving them to the children. The principal said that eating boll weevils won’t harm children, though he did admit that official policy was to not serve food containing insects.
School staff members have more fun on the job than do teachers. Southeast School bus driver Jon Datthelmer of Harrison gets a big kick out of his job (13). After dropping off his load of 33 high school band members at a basketball game, Datthelmer, whose blood alcohol level was six times the legal limit, crashed his bus head on into two pickup trucks. Datthelmer was suspended last year for driving with beer on his bus, was convicted of drunk driving in Hamilton County, and was suspended for aiming his school bus at a school janitor. The students think he’s a cool cat.
All in all, I’d have to say it’s very reassuring to discover that all these stimulating things are going on in Cincinnati area schools. It almost makes me want to be a kid again.
Sources: 1, Cinc. Enquirer, 1-12-11; 2, www.nky.com, 8-23-10; 3, Cinc. Enquirer, 8-25-09; 4, Cincinnati.com, 3-5-11; 5, www.cincinnati.com, 1-28-11; 6, www.cincinnati.com, 1-13-11; 7, Cincinnati Enquirer, 3-4-09; 8, Cincinnati Enquirer, 3-4-09; 9, Cincinnati Enquirer, 2-19-09; 10, www.cincinnati.com, 1-27-11; . 11, Cincinnati.com, 4-5-11; 12, Cinc Enquirer, 1-12-11; 13, Cincinnati Enquirer, 10-15-10.