In just another sign of the times, Sept. 9 marked a first for the Daniel Island Speaker Series — going virtual.
The popular community event, supported by the Rotary Club of Daniel Island, the Daniel Island Community Fund, the Daniel Island Business Association, and the Daniel Island Club, took to Zoom because of COVID-19 concerns.
Rotary Club member Stephen Slifer said this was the first event to take place since the pandemic forced the cancellation of the April Birds of Prey presentation.
“Like everybody else we were waiting to see the pace at which the virus was spreading throughout South Carolina. We hoped that it would have subsided enough for everyone to feel comfortable attending an in-person event in September. But it appears that neither the Daniel Island Club or island residents are prepared for an in-person event of any size in September,” Slifer said.
The presentation featured Jody Stallings, an eighth grade English teacher at Moultrie Middle School. The award-winning Charleston teacher also is the director of the Charleston Teacher Alliance. His numerous awards include the Charleston County Teacher of the Year and the WCSC Golden Apple Award.
He also writes the “Teacher to Parent” column for the Moultrie News. The weekly opinion column focuses on discipline, parent involvement, and the roles teachers and parents play in creating successful students.
Stallings spoke passionately about what he feels are the three keys to improving public education — school discipline, teacher focus, and parental accountability.
School discipline has changed over the years and Stallings said teachers don’t have a lot of options available when it comes to controlling students’ behavior. “We need to empower teachers and bring back meaningful consequences… you can barely raise your voice anymore.”
The Lowcountry teacher discussed the idea of applying the broken windows theory to school disciplinary actions. The theory states that visible signs of disorder and misbehavior in an environment encourage further disorder and misbehavior. Taking care of the small problems prevents them from becoming bigger issues. In an educational environment it can be used to address low level bad behavior before it turns into larger disciplinary concerns.
The second way to combat educational obstacles is redirecting teacher focus. Stallings explained that over the years an increasingly bloated bureaucracy has taken away funds and focus from teachers.
In the past decade high-priced consultants and administrators have been added to the budget, taking away the much needed funds for smaller class sizes and other essential educational tools, he said.
Stallings also addressed the need to get testing under control. Over-testing has taken focus away from learning, he explained. “In any given year you lose about 10 instruction days due to testing. We’d be better off using those days for instruction.”
According to Stallings, the final key is parental accountability. He talked about the importance of parents taking an active role in their children’s education and holding them accountable. “All you have to do is make your kid go to school, make them behave and make them do their homework. And if every parent would do just those three things we could clear up almost every problem in education in the next two years.”
Overall, Slifer said the evening was a success. “Jody was terrific…There were tons of positive comments coming in regarding his presentation and how lucky his students are to have him as a teacher. He is a very gifted teacher.”
Slifer says they plan to do the November event in-person at the Daniel Island Club. Seats will be limited and the program also will also be streamed live. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org