It’s back to school time in Cumberland County. Wednesday, buses will be rolling, picking up children and taking them to their schools for the start of a new school year.

Teachers reported Monday morning for the county-wide inservice program at Stone Memorial High School and are busy today preparing to greet their new charges for the year.

Of course, though, teachers have been hard at work throughout the summer. From preparing for new assignments to completing training on new standards or technology or other topics, they’ve been the students. Now, it’s time to put those lesson plans into action and help this year’s crop of youngsters increase their knowledge and skills and, hopefully, foster a love of learning that will last a lifetime.

That’s what we want for our students: to have that spark ignited that makes them continue to seek out new information and new ideas throughout their lives.

That great Greek philosopher Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” When we speak of having a well-educated public, many times leaders, business people and others will say that our schools should graduate students who have certain skills in technical areas or who have mastered certain academic standards that make them “college and career ready.”

Those are the buzzwords these days. Certainly, we need our students leaving our schools prepared to enter a job market that is increasingly competitive and technical.

But that’s not all they need.

Technology continues to advance more quickly then we can come up with training programs for the new technology. Sometimes, it seems by the time there starts being training in a new area of technology, that’s already old hat and something new is on the horizon. It’s ever changing. So the person who is ready and willing to continue to learn is going to have an advantage over those who feel all they need to know, they already learned in school.

Yes, the knowledge acquired in those hallowed halls is important. It helps lay a strong foundation for future learning. Skills and knowledge often build on what you’ve learned before, and what you’re learning today will help you to learn something new tomorrow. It’s all important.

And, it never stops being important.

Teachers, you have a great role to play in opening the eyes and minds of the students you will see this year.

Parents, you continue to be your child’s greatest teacher. As academic standards change and the homework your child brings home becomes more and more difficult, you may think, “Gosh, this is really hard. I don’t remember any of this from school.”

That’s OK.

Last year, a friend asked if I could help her child with her seventh-grade language arts homework. It was identifying gerund and participle phrases. I was lost.

Yes, I work with words for a living. And somewhere, way back in time, I also studied gerund and participle phrases. But that was many, many years ago, and the actual “how-to” of those topics were buried deep in my subconscious. While we newsroom folk will often have a spirited debate about the Oxford comma and whether it is necessary or obsolete, we’ve yet to dissect a sentence and identify all the different types of phrases and parts of speech included.

I had to hit the books myself in order to help with this homework. It was difficult to unearth something learned 20-something years prior and explaining it to a 12-year-old who really wanted to do well on her assignment.

Don’t worry if you don’t remember all the rules, steps and the rest of the stuff for each subject. The best thing you can do is offer encouragement to your child and, if necessary, seek out help when you both are lost on an assignment. But above all, be willing to learn with your child, and make your own continued learning a priority. Your example is the best teacher.

Students, you have a great opportunity to decide that this is only the beginning of your journey, and you’re going to make the most of every day. I hope you all have a wonderful school year!

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at


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