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Letter From a Teacher to Kids

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I hated school. But I also went to a very strict school, with rules and punishments that would probably not be legal anymore. Amazingly, I later became a teacher of third, fourth, and sixth grade, and I did that for twenty years. It's hard to explain even to myself, but I do like kids and working with them.

Now I am trying to be a U.S. Senator and I've made my main guiding principle for running the country to "put kids first." Let me say in clear and simple words what I mean by that. I mean first of all that when adults think about actions they're voting on or passing laws about, they should keep kids first in mind. They should do everything possible to make learning fun, interesting, inspiring, and in general make school a place that kids enjoy. There should be nothing more important than educating children in a way that works for the kids.

We should listen to kids, who often know more about what's really going on than the teachers--what's really helping kids learn, what's working against that, what's important in their own lives. What is interesting and what is a total bore.

I also mean no bullying, no teachers hounding you all the time about tests, no absurd amounts of homework, no principals that base their schools on punishment, no ridiculous classes that don't get you really thinking about things.

I believe there should be no overcrowding, no run-down buildings, no class disruptors who make life miserable for everyone, no report cards. Instead of report cards, we should have portfolios that show your actual work and that you can take pride in and show others and keep for a permanent record.

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There should be no ridiculous "race to the top," whatever that means anyway. There should be cooperation and real learning and school should not be based on competition. Games are fun and great and I approve of those, but not as a measure of how you compare to everyone else.

I believe every person has their own abilities and talents and that these should be encouraged and explored. Not everyone is an expert in every area, nor should they be. Not everyone needs to be "perfect" in any area for that matter. I say we need to encourage curiosity and show children things of interest that as teachers we have come across in our own lives.

Almost certainly, you have had good and bad teachers, and you know what makes them good or bad. Each year I would have kids write on index cards three questions they wanted to know about me. Can you guess what the main one was, about 75% or more of the time?

It was, "Are you nice?" or something very close to that. My answer was that I would try to be the nicest teacher they ever had, if they were nice. But the opposite was also true: You be mean, and I'll be the meanest teacher you ever had. But somehow we always became friends, as I think teachers and students should always be.

I also mean by putting kids first that we adults should be thinking of all humans getting along, stopping wars, ending pollution, working on other sources of energy, concerning ourselves seriously with climate change, making our environment healthy for all animals and plants, and making a society where people are not spending lots of time in jail and court and doing stupid things.

I think we should be doing everything possible to make jobs meaningful, both for your parents now and you when you get older. No person in America should have to go hungry or wonder if they'll be able to stay in their own house. Houses should be comfortable and affordable for everyone.

We should not see people begging for money on every other street corner. We should not see garbage or have adults telling us we can't afford any of these things. Those who do are simply lying to us, and they should not be tolerated.

We should not let people make money by scamming others. Everyone should have a meaningful job, no worries about healthcare, no concerns about where their next meal is coming from.

I believe that educated and thinking minds are our most important resource, and that these are the future of our country, and even the world. I think college education should be free for those who really want it and prove by hard work that they do.

I could go on and I actually have, on my main website, (that I encourage you to look at, along with some of the videos and links on there too--or at least the sites I mention below).

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly want: (more...)

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Thank you Daniel for this thoughtful commentary on... by Ben Wofford on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 9:30:56 AM
And I imagine any reader here could say the same t... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 12:38:59 PM
Having had some experience in the classroom 'are y... by landshark on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 2:14:36 PM
I have worked as a substitute teacher, and actuall... by landshark on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 2:19:58 PM
and always had a bag of tricks of my own. Very few... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 7:04:07 PM
If it was shown to me (or the other teachers in th... by landshark on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:04:26 AM
Who is in charge of the same class every day, does... by landshark on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:12:14 AM
underpaid, unappreciated, and treated like mindles... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 6:47:19 PM
The discipline systems used in many schools don't ... by landshark on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:37:26 PM
my lines of thought. And when they're playing "Sin... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Oct 11, 2012 at 2:59:31 AM
IMO there are many "tricks" for the disruptors. Yo... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:52:55 AM
to let them run with it. But I was always on the o... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 6:57:44 PM
I hope I got that right. It seems you are running ... by Ad Du on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 8:05:12 PM
 I wish textbooks (for high school, at leas... by Ad Du on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 8:10:58 PM
thank you! ... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Oct 8, 2012 at 9:11:58 PM
 Sir,  Would it be possible for you to w... by Ad Du on Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012 at 12:40:44 PM
I assume you mean Native Americans. I subbed for... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 9:55:47 AM
 Hello,  I did not mean you haven't done... by Ad Du on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 4:01:25 PM
and I have read a lot--that I did not consider rel... by Daniel Geery on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 7:02:05 PM
 Sir,  I was simply referring to my rele... by Ad Du on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:04:35 PM
 I insist: technology is great, but it's be... by Ad Du on Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:15:30 PM
treat Native Americans like dirt, and it is yet an... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Oct 11, 2012 at 3:06:16 AM
I am a teacher, too, and I love everything you sai... by Susan Lee Schwartz on Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012 at 11:27:59 PM