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Dogged Devotion: One of the hardest-working educators at Dronfield School in Sheffield has been recognized with an honorary life membership in Unison, the public employees’ union. Henry Fanshawe Smart, a member of the school’s behavior and learning support unit, whose main task is to provide a "charming, calming" presence, has been praised by administrators for improving student attendance and conduct, reports the Star. But his fellow teachers aren’t jealous: Henry is a 1-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, purchased to boost student morale. "I hope this doesn’t mean he’ll be demanding extra-long walks and toilet breaks now that we can represent him!" said Unison officer Ravi Subramanian.


Old School: Albina Cruces Vasquez started teaching when she was just 15. Immaturity isn’t a problem, though—that was 86 years ago. At 101, Vasquez still teaches arithmetic and serves as principal of the elementary school she founded. She told the Washington Post that her classroom credo remains the same as it was in 1918: "Children respond when you talk to them, when you keep your promises, and when you respect them as human beings." In an era when few women went to school, she obtained an extensive education and started Eduardo Novoa Elementary in a Mexico City seed warehouse in 1947. She credits her fitness and lucidity to a daily stretching regimen and boasts that a doctor recently mistook her for 75.


Game On: Worried that the nation’s children are becoming too soft, Singapore’s education ministry will implement a plan starting this year that motivates them to become more "rugged." The number of students participating in sports has dropped by half over the past decade, and one principal told the Straits Times, "Teenagers are very sheltered today, and the risk-taking spirit is not as pronounced as it should be." Officials hope that awarding more "co-curricular activity points," which boost students’ chances of admittance to competitive universities, will help get children going. And though the kids may not win any gold medals, parents anticipate that the exercise will at least help "toughen their characters."


Like, Whatever: In an effort to halt a slide toward verbal sloppiness and excessive informality, at least two New Zealand primary schools have instituted a zero-tolerance crackdown on slang in the classroom. The chief offenders: "yeah" and "yep." Administrators at Point Chevalier School in central Auckland hope the reduction of "grunt culture" will help students shape up, both behaviorally and academically. Michelle Farquhar, whose two children attend Point Chevalier, told the Dominion Post that she is agreeable to the vernacular crackdown: "If they’re prepared to help, then yeah, yeah, I’m all for it."

—David Carpman

Vol. 16, Issue 1, Page 19

Published in Print: September 1, 2004, as Dispatches
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