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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Our Schools: At Times Turbulent and Troublesome

Sister Guacamole, where are you?

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018 - 12:02

Schools in our nation seem to be under siege from lone shooters, bullies, disturbing phone calls and emails, and the occasional bomb threat. It’s a sad state of affairs when armed guards and metal detectors become as common as whiteboards and backpacks.

Numerous comments and suggestions have been offered, and it is not my intention to join the crowd in an attempt to remedy the situation. However, I want to reflect on a time when learning and school attendance was not fraught with anguish and distress.

Let’s harken back to the days, at least in my lifetime, when nuns were prevalent in the school system. Classes were cramped with 60 children to a room, yet courtesy and kindness toward each other not only existed, it was demanded. The American flag was revered. Occasionally a spitball was launched, but the culprit was quickly escorted to see the principal. Each day provided a learning experience instead of disorder and havoc.

Those were different times; there were fewer confrontations between students and parents. The nuns were in charge and performed their roles with grace and sensibility. That’s not to say that teachers don’t operate in a similar fashion today.

The role of a teacher certainly has changed throughout the years. Besides preparing and delivering lessons, educators are also providing for students as nurses, consolers, cafeteria monitors, playground marshals, dispute counselors, and interventionists. They are working with children affected by a host of maladies including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), malnutrition, and physical abuse. Whatever the case, a teacher always seems to come to the rescue. There have been discussions about teachers carrying sidearms to protect against intrusions by crazed gunmen. I take no position on this; leave it up to the teachers.

Here in the 21st century, we can’t expect to resurrect those parochial school days, but they can serve as an example of how simple life was. In 1978 there was a song that captured the feeling of the time; it was by Tommy Sharp & The Sharptones. If you went to a Catholic school, chances are there was a nun with an unusual name. My eighth-grade teacher was Sister Mary Falconeri. As such, Sharp captured the moment with his song, “They Don’t Make Nun Names (Like That No More).” Some of those names were Sister Mary Rutabaga as the cafeteria director; for gym class we had Sister Mary Coach; in biology there was Sister Mary Aorta, and of course the shop teacher was Sister Mary Black & Decker.

Could nuns make a change in today’s school environment? Probably not. We’ve gone too far in our acceptance of societal misconduct, and nuns wouldn’t be able to adapt. But we could implement some of the standards that were established back then. How about instituting courtesy and kindness in all that we do? It seems to have worked for the nuns and their students. It’s a small step, but it’s a start. Let it be our first move. I’m confident it would make Latin teacher Sister Mary Caesar proud.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.