To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Friday, December 2, 2022


Taking Back Our Schools



Sharon MartinThe year before I retired, my superintendent moved me into a fourth-grade classroom. After years of teaching middle school and high school, I was a first-year teacher all over again.

I may have been out of my comfort zone, but I had a responsibility to the students. I dove into the literature – research for me and grade-level reading for them. It was my last year. I had nothing to lose, but those kids had everything to lose if I didn’t do it right.

Here was the formula I came up with:

Dump the reading series and find books, stories, and poems that kids want to read. Every day, I read aloud to them and every day they had quiet reading time.

We underlined words we didn’t understand, made word walls, and even sang vocabulary songs. We had class discussions. Vocabularies and comprehension skills grew in an organic way.

Social studies and science were a compromise. We used the textbooks to learn how to read difficult texts. We learned science with hands-on experiments. And we learned social studies with maps, picture books, primary source material, and field trips.

We wrote every day. Some days it was just a journal entry. Other days the writing was more extensive. The students learned that writing is a process, from prewriting to final product.

We spent a lot of time doing math. The goal was automaticity. If a child can add, subtract, multiply, and think, he or she has math licked.

It was a difficult class and a difficult year. Several of the students had personal stories that would break your heart. Some had reading problems. Some had emotional problems. But in the end, everyone learned something, including me.

Could I make the same choices again? I hope that I would be brave enough to do the right thing.

Right now, I see good teachers fighting for their professional lives in test-prep factories. Edicts come down from above, many of them from folks who have never taken an education course. Developmental psychology has been thrown out the window.

I believe in best practices and accountability – not to so-called reformers or even to elected officials, but to children.

Teachers and parents, opt out of this testing madness, these ridiculous reform stunts that have students testing a month out of the school year!

Taxpayers, join the fray. Let the reformers and their minions know that you are paying taxes to educate the children in your district, not to enrich corporations.”

It is time for an education counter-revolution. Let’s take back our schools. Let’s do it for the kids.

Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer



  1. Then what are we as Oklahoma educators going to do to better prepare our students for the future?? Ive worked with some teachers just this year who came from other states & are now teaching in Oklahoma – they all have made the statement that “They stepped back in time when they started teaching in Oklahoma, like 10-15 years.” If what we are doing now is not working, if we don’t want or agree with the recommendations for change then WHAT are we going to do? Continue on as we are now, leaving our students in the past? I just wonder what we are going to do? Can’t keep doing what we are doing….. I dont believe it is all the schools’ fault. Oklahoma society needs to change… Education needs to be important!

  2. As educators we have stood by and let groups like ALEC write and rewrite laws concerning education because we don’t want to be called political or viewed as movers and shakers. I am ashamed of what I have NOT done to protect our schools and our students. I didn’t understand what kind of organization ALEC was soon enough. I haven’t found a way to mobilize my coworkers against nonsense testing that has entered students daily lives. I haven’t found a way to convince people this is not a Democrat/Republican issue. This is about saving Oklahoma’s Public Schools and Oklahoma’s children. Maybe there are some schools that need vast improvement. Mine doesn’t. We know how to educate children and we do it well. At least we did before all this nonsense about reform started. Do parents really want corporations making decisions about their children’s educations? ALEC thinks so because no one has stopped them yet. I have been silent long enough. I am accountable to the One who called me to help children. I am accountable to the children of my school. They can call me what they want but I will be in OKC fighting for my students on March 31. I will be writing letters and making calls when I am not there. I hope you will join me for the students of our state.

  3. I have three grandchildren in the OK school system. They are doing very good in math and science but do not like reading. They have never liked the reading program. There has to be some way to bring enjoyment to reading. I don’t have an answer, but reading and testing on the computer alone might not be the only way to go. Do they do any group reading on subjects they find interesting?

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.