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You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see that our schools are being besieged by crime and violence right now.  Nor do you have to be Sherlock Holmes to see that the perpetrators of practically all this crime and violence are coming from a sector of students who have long-long been overlooked.  They are invariably overlooked by maxed-out parents, maxed-out extended family, maxed-out teachers, maxed-out school counselors and maxed- out school administrators.  And then – suddenly – many of these commonly quieter students explode into fireballs.

Did I leave out anyone here, as to the overlooking onlookers?  I think I left out the fellow students of this chrysalis. The fellow students are not so locked into being maxed out as are all the adults in this picture.  And it is I believe the fellow students of the problems students who could be of more help to these troubled young people than all of the maxed-out parents, maxed-out extended family, maxed-out teachers, maxed-pout school counselors and maxed-out administrators in the entire nation.

From the get-go we know we are in trouble when we understand that becoming a violent fireball is seen so differently by the troubled student than by the rest of us.  For the troubled student, becoming a fireball is a solution that he finally turns to.  It is indeed a solution that finally makes the troubled student visible, in his eyes. In our eyes, however, he simply became a fireball.

This issue of visibility has seldom been so well presented than by the children’s author Samuel Clements, in his children’s novel, Things Not Seen.  In this book, a boy in middle school age is starting to grow invisible to his family, which sets in a kind of panic inside him.  I think this kind of panic is not too uncommon in middle school.  He becomes less visible in a bigger school where he transfers from one teacher to another and less visible at home where parents really have a hard time looking at their precious little boy suddenly becoming this difficult teenager.

The worst thing to happen now is to be overlooked.

I just want to give some credit here to a teacher I know who teaches math in a high school that he not too many miles from where I live, and so it has been a sort of inevitability that I would be often substitute teaching there.  Mrs. Holly Allen of California’s Heritage High school has a teamwork process in place where every student has a partner to help him or her with the math work.  As a substitute in this class, I see two heads are better than on especially against any student becoming overlooked or falling overboard without notice.  In math especially, if you miss learning how one process works, you will not be able to on to higher processes. 

But in a teamwork environment, the partner is positioned to know more quickly when a teammate has become lost.  In contrast, In the years when I was studying new kinds of math, if you got lost you were usually too embarrassed to let anyone know.  Teachers cannot certainly watch over everyone to make certain everyone is on the same page. But teammates will know practically immediately.

Let’s go on now to another way those schools may create a fail-safe against any student become completely overlooked.

Another plan would be by creating a mandatory class report and classroom presentation --- but not just on Fiji or the Industrial Revolution – but on another student in the class.  This would be an extension of Mrs.  Allen’s teammate model.  The teammates take turns learning about each other.  They would learn what their interests are. They would learn what their hopes may be.  Then they create a written report with an oral classroom presentation to follow.

This will not create a total wipeout of alienation in our schools.  But it would work against the existing alienation that we have in schools today.  And clearly there is too much alienation and isolation now.

And I think if all teachers were like me, there would be no silent schools.   I did not get into school teaching from an education culture, but from a private enterprise environment with its ongoing noise.  The only time when silence prevails in a private enterprise culture is when it is announced that the buildings will be closed and everyone is will be getting fired.  But otherwise, I believe students would have a much better chance of being less isolated and alienated if we teachers allowed students to talk with each other in the classroom more often.  After all, the students are not all going to be working in other silent schools, silent libraries and silent funeral home when they get out of high school.  In fact, some of our students today will become presidents of the United States.

Chris Sharp- Commentary

Chris Sharp is an Educator and a prize-winning professional writer. He has recently published a new book titled How to Like a Human Being . Sharp's latest book is an Amazon Kindle collection of his published short stories, Every Kind of Angel . His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.