The building of a 21st Century School for Union County

The School!

Paulette Elementary
Article 39

By Chip Brown |

I was at a ballgame a few weeks ago and watched an excellent young pitcher from one of our schools. He is 10 years old and already throws a change-up.  But as I watched the game another pitcher came in and threw several great pitches. I assume this young man was about 10 also. Anyway, after several great pitches he hung one over the plate and got it drilled for a double. From the crowd a man who I hope was his father ran down to the fence and began shouting, "What were you thinking with that?!"

The young man looked at his father, shrugged and said, "I threw it and he hit it, he got a good hit."

As anyone that knows me can tell you I am rarely at a loss for words. In this case I was speechless in the philosophy of this young man. This pointed out to me a fundamental problem in our country. We grow up!

Somewhere along the way we go from a 10 year old that was happy a friend got a hit to the father who screams at his son for pitching a ball that is hittable.

I used to stress over my daughter getting math in the second grade. She would miss a few and I would focus on those while ignoring the several she got right. A teacher named Cora Miller (her teacher) took me aside one day and told me that she would get it. She emphasized that I should see it as a process over weeks not individual results. Then another teacher from 5th grade by the name of Melinda Ross came to see me. She told me that my drilling of multiplication with my daughter wasn't the best tactic. She gave me several cards to use sort of like flash cards. She had made these cards herself and they were in a specific order. For every two that were hard and my daughter could likely get wrong, the third was one she would know and get correct. Mrs. Ross explained to me that to keep my daughter's confidence up every third one, she should be able to say to herself, "I know that one!"

My daughter now has a confidence in math.

Both of these teachers will be at Paulette next year. I don't know what their assignments will be there but I hope they get to collaborate somewhat. They personify the value of good teachers. They didn't stop at teaching a child, they taught the parent some skills to continue the teaching at home.

Maybe they should try their hands at coaching ball. In education just like in ball sometimes it is the parents that really mess things up. Sometimes parents just don't try to help and other times parents try too hard. When I saw that parent stress over his son's pitch I saw myself helping my daughter in math. I was embarrassed for both of us.

Now why am I talking about ballgames and teachers? This week I want to discuss with you the basketball court at Paulette. Figure 1 shows Glenn Coppock inspecting the new hard maple ball court. In the photo, if you look closely you can find floating orbs in the foreground. These are specks of dust from work on the stage. The floor is so shiny that the specks reflected the flash of my camera as it bounced back from the court.

Studies have shown again and again a correlation between competitive sports and education. In Japan children are encouraged to play in a competitive sport. The parents by culture sit in the stands and cheer. In Japan it is considered poor taste to jeer at the other team. In fact it can bring shame and disgrace on an entire family. Have you seen Japan's rankings in education?

In China it is mandatory that every school aged child play a competitive sport. The Chinese philosophy is that competition on the field leads to competition in the business market. I think there is a truth to that.

Now does this apply to America today? Can we learn from studies that come from Japan, China, and Germany? Why are few studies on the subject done in America?

Paulette is making a major investment in the future of it's students with the gym. Made of hard maple this school will be the only elementary school with a wood floor. That may not seem like much but it really is. Ask any child who plays ball and see how excited they are about this.

In the past I have been guilty of assuming that sports take away from education. It is easy to think that the time put into sports take time away from study. But it appears that the reverse may be correct. In fact, studies show that the determining factor may be the allocation of time itself. Also it is affected by how well a school monitors grades.

But every study shows that grades can be affected by how much pride a school puts in its sports program. Studies from  Germany and Japan show that schools with a sports spirit have more students that seek secondary education. Debate abounds as to why this is but statistics show that it is true even here in America.

In fact it seems to be the case even in our county. I will use Big Ridge as an example. They have good test scores yearly and we all see that. But they do have team pride. They also have an administration that fosters that pride with various events. I attended an event there recently and found their Principal running the concession stand. Mr. Flatford came from the concession stand and addressed the crowd. I began to realize that Roger being there night and day was his form of branding. Can we think of Big Ridge without thinking of Mr. Flatford?

Originally, I must admit when Jason Bailey paid out of his own pocket for mascot images and branding for his school I wondered why. That is really what got me started on reading these studies. Having pride in one's school inspires confidence in the student's time at their next school. Linking a student to a school identity follows that student through life and ups their game. Figure 2 shows one of the graphics purchased by Jason. This one is in the center of the ball court.  The panther depicted there will be used to label each area of the school. Soon people will recognize that panther as meaning Paulette Elementary.

Mr. Goforth explained this to me in the way Union County schools used to be. Each community had a school and when we consolidated them communities lost their heart. He told me that a student identified himself with his community school. When they got to High School if they did not do well they were not representing their community well.

Paulette may be one of our first attempts in returning that philosophy to our school system. Figure 3 shows the hallway each child will walk down daily at Paulette. You can possibly consider it the pathway to their education. We hope that this school will cut a new pathway and a new way for education county wide.

Thank you to each and every person who made this possible.