Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parents hit the desks in school switch day

EO file photo
Jill and Allen Stiffler attempt to solve an algebra problem sitting at the desk of their daughter Kim Carter at Weston-McEwen High School Feb. 23, 1994. Parents filled in for many students at the invitation of the school.

Parents of Weston-McEwen high school students entered the wayback machine in February of 1994 when they switched places with their kids and went back to school for a day. It was a chance to see what their kids were learning and doing, and most parents were pleasantly surprised.

Librarian Ruth Kostur and teacher Jennifer Riley were the brains behind the switch, which proved to be both instructive and frustrating for adults who scrambled to make it to class on time and stared blankly at math problems scribbled on a white board. The idea, said principal Wayne Kostur, was to get parents more involved in their students’ academic lives.

It wasn’t exactly a fair trade, though — while parents were dealing with sticky lockers and hypotenuse triangles, their teenagers were sleeping in and watching TV.

“It’s great,” said Tim Pupo, who switched with daughter Tammy for the day. “They ought to make it mandatory.” Pupo said his daughter had planned to make the trade mutual, and cover his job at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, but a basketball injury put a kibosh on those plans.

For most of the 40-something students-for-a-day, school had changed considerably in the ensuing decades. Computers were now a mainstay in the classroom, and science classes were much more challenging. Some things, though, remain the same — math is still hard, and impromptu speeches still aren’t any fun.

The point wasn’t correct answers or perfect attendance, however. “If you had to struggle a little bit,” said teacher Elvin Taylor after his sixth period math class, “then it will help you understand the struggles your kids go through sometimes.” He was talking about trigonometry, but he might as well have been talking about the whole exercise.

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