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Ann Bednarski: Wake up, and see what happens

Ann Bednarski

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

There are little things that happen that have big impacts on us. Two of them piqued my interest during this last week. One was a decision by Carson City Schools to abandon the plan for uniforms for high school students.

I salute students for uniting as one and their parents for getting involved and stating their objections and concerns about mandating uniforms. It took courage and commitment to come forth, prepare and initiate petitions, and most of all to participate in the meetings regarding the issue. Kudos to all of you! It speaks loudly and clearly of your commitment to your own futures. The effort yielded the desired goal.

Recently the following was the quote at the top of the Opinion page of this newspaper: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up,” Paul Valery, French poet. This quote applies here as in your life you will, at some time or another, have to take a position and defend your view. It’s a great advantage to have some practice at doing just that while you are in school. The things you learned and the techniques you employed to reach your desired goal to reject mandatory uniforms became part of your learning experience. Now, when you are on your own, you have a reference of experience to guide you.

Then, quite by chance, I saw a short clip of a high school student giving an impassioned, genuine plea for excellence to his class and teacher by delivering an impromptu speech. His name is Jeff Bliss; he attends Duncanville High School in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

Jeff’s story is very interesting to me, especially because he quit school after failing ninth grade and chose to return to school “with renewed vigor” after he came to the realization that an education was critical to his success in life. At 18, Jeff is currently in his sophomore year of high school. Many of the students I taught had similar “quitting and returning to school” stories. From my observations, the impetus to return to school has a lot to do with a change in attitude and a first- hand experience in the real world.

Though I do not know all the details or what exactly prompted Jeff Bliss’ outburst, I do know his comments were to his teacher. He criticized her for not engaging the class in discussions or inspiring them to get involved with their studies. Jeff does not think passing out packets of work with no instruction is teaching; nor is putting forth no effort needed to excite students. His world history teacher did not engage him at all. She kept asking him to leave and commanded it at one point to get out of the room, saying, “Bye. Get out of here” and then, “Please leave.” In his pleas he said, “We are the future of this country.” At one point he said, “You don’t teach us; you tell us you are here just for the paycheck you get.” She told him to “Quit b—-ing”.

The day after I saw this video, I listened to a lively debate about it on the radio. It was wonderful to hear parents, students, and teachers calling with their opinions. All of the participants agreed Jeff Bliss delivered a message that needed to be said, and heard. Some felt he should have gone through “proper channels” such as the school board or the principal because he was being insubordinate to his teacher. Most felt that had he done so, his message would be lost in the bureaucracy and never heard or seen by millions of people.

Since that radio debate I went on the Internet and listened to an interview he had on a show called “Say Cheese”. From it I learned Jeff Bliss is being invited to appear on many talk shows, including “The Today Show”. He says he has never been busier, and though he did not know his classmate was videotaping his passionate speech, he is glad it was recorded. Asked if he saw himself as a hero, he immediately responded, “NO!” He said he would rather be an inspiration to other students. Then, he added, “Teachers should excite and motivate students; and, students should challenge teachers.” He reported his world history teacher has been suspended with pay and he, to date, has not been reprimanded or punished. He had an appointment with the principal later in the week.

Most young people have dreams and aspirations for their lives. What a pleasure to see what happens when they “Wake Up”!

Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.