Has anyone noticed that children now “need” 180 days of school, and teachers “need” workdays every 15 minutes. Neither pronouncement was made by a teacher. Teachers want to teach. They’d give up a workday anytime, if they could teach from Labor Day to the end of May, like the old days, and not live in fear of snow. Faced again with the prospect of prolonging the school year into infinity, I speak for most teachers when I say to school boards everywhere, ARE YOU NUTS! ENOUGH ALREADY! GO BACK! RE-THINK! WINE IN THE TEACHERS’ LOUNGE! (It was worth a shot).

What was wrong with the old days? Children got a better education in 160 days than teachers can accomplish now. (Hang on, teachers, I’m going for something here…)

Once upon a time, kids went to school to get an education; teachers went to school to dispense same. This was done from 8:00 to 3:00, with 30 minutes for lunch and recess. After school, teachers sat in their rooms (sometimes with children who had after-school detention, making them handy, blackboard-cleaning serfs), grading the day’s work and planning the next day’s lesson.

Instead of forming a Discipline Committee, teachers would call parents occasionally to tell them little Johnny (back then at least seven boys in every class were named Little Johnny) was acting up and dropping the class hamster on girls’ heads, and the parents would assure her they would drop little Johnny on his head, and it wouldn’t happen again.

Occasionally, the teachers would meet together to share their concerns (and hilarious stories). At those meetings, instead of Risk-Assessment Teams, one would say:

“Hey, you know little Johnny?”

“Which one?” the rest would ask.

“The one with the big feet.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“I don’t think he gets enough breakfast … by lunchtime, he’s eating my Wite-out.”

“No money, or no sense, at home?”

“I believe no money.”

“Well, let’s take turns bringing him breakfast each day–I got oatmeal out the wazoo.”

“But what if it’s just ‘no sense’?”

“Then call and tell them to feed their boy, before he disappears! Get it? Ha,ha,ha!!!” (And teachers still have that great sense of humor today.)

Instead of Differentiated Learning Workshops, a teacher told her students: “You’re all capable of earning an A. You know it. I know it. Your parents know it. Some of you have to work harder than others. Welcome to the real world. If you need extra help, see me after school. No football practice, no hangin’ at the mall, no ‘forgetting’. If everyone doesn’t get an A, I won’t be happy. And, if teacher isn’t happy…?”

“Ain’t nobody happy!”

That’s how teachers handled things back then. No committees, assessments, initiatives, or alignments. Just common sense and time to teach. They didn’t need 83 teacher workdays (maybe just two each semester, to hang Civil War projects and get a massage). They had the energy to handle kids and educate the hell out of them! A snow day now and then made no difference in the caliber of that education. They’d tough out the rest of the year together–and cheerfully–because vacation was a sacred thing, with which you did not mess!