The State of Our Schools: One Teacher’s Perspective

This past month we had Phil Callaghan, who has had a 40-year career in education including roles as a coach, teacher, assistant principal, and athletic director, join us to discuss The State of Our Schools: One Teacher's Perspective. recently launched their new Learn-at-Lunch Zoom meetings which will be held on the last Wednesday of every month.

This past month we had Phil Callaghan, who has had a 40-year career in education including roles as a coach, teacher, assistant principal, and athletic director, join us to discuss The State of Our Schools: One Teacher’s Perspective. He spoke on the physical, psychological, and emotional effects on our children’s health as well as the root cause of these effects. Below is the story he had to share with all of us during the meeting.

The State of Our Schools

Good afternoon, and thank you very much. Very happy to be here. This is going to be a personal perspective. Hopefully bringing together some experiences, stories and things that I’ve learned. That will all come together at the end. Understand that hopefully, we’re coming together as a village to try to make our young people healthier and happier. For me, it started at the age of 9 when I decided I wanted to be a teacher and my first teaching assignment was in the mid 1980s. In the second year, I was made to head baseball coach and to be honest with you, I was at the peak of my poor choices and partying days, and I did it completely, selfishly. What I thought was that I might be able to win more games if I could convince my players to make sound choices when it came to drugs and alcohol. So along the lines, I was educated on exactly what are the physiological effects of prematuration, drug and alcohol use. And when I learned about the physical, the emotional, and the psychological damage my first thought was, “Why had nobody ever taught me this?”

If somebody would have taught it to me, I probably would have made different choices.

We implemented those programs. It was highly successful. They then convinced me, after 5 years of teaching, to become an administrator at the school in which we implemented school wide, and not knowing at the time what we really stumbled upon, was part of what I later learned, John Wooden used to talk about all the the time, about the importance of the triangle where players, coaches, and parents come together at the betterment of the person at the top of that triangle which are the student athletes.

So with that being said, the program was highly successful. When somewhere around 10 years into the career decided to move to public schools where, in a very affluent public school system, we implemented some of the same policies, and then along the line started another program called Academic Service and Character, where we took kids who were at risk and failing, and we had them do community service.

About the same time my mother passed, and we in her memory, started a homeless foundation called the Mom Foundation. And so what we would do with those at-risk kids is we would take them to work with the homeless, and what we found is, they were able to find their true self through selflessly giving to others.

So all of that, of course, ended up taken us now 40 years into an educational career, where one of the biggest things I would say in 2024 is. Never have I seen our youth more at risk or more unhealthy, and I think that what has to happen is that we’ve got to come together as parents, as educators, and we have got to be a village to help these young people navigate what is going on now.

Some of the evidence that I would state, and and the drug alcohol counselor that we hired at the sales she and I were having this conversation a year ago, the 2 indicators, I would say, and all you have to do is look them up is the increased percentage of drug use amongst our young. And then the amount of depression that our youth are facing, and and oftentimes now showing itself in a thing called a suicide ideation.

So with that being said, I want to kind of bring up 3 stories that I’ve experienced in the last 3 and a half years, that I think even there’s a Biblical reference to this, that he who spares the rod. We have got to get back to understanding that the rod was nothing but something where guidance was provided, and we have got to get back to guiding our youth.

About 3 and a half years ago I had a young girl in class. a daughter of immigrant families that was starting to make some poor choices, and the parents kept asking, please, we want the rules applied to our daughter because they knew they were losing her. She ended up going with a few young men over to the high school and filming some acts that would break any of our hearts, and it led to us having a behavior specialist come into our school.

So when the person came in, a kid about 29 years old to observe my class. I ended up cornering him and asking him some questions, and I kept saying to him, look, first, I wanna know, do you get paid as a teacher or a social worker? And he kind of laugh.

And I said, Okay, so what’s the perfect storm that has gotten us here? And I kept talking to him about things like the pandemic and overindulgent parenting and that sort of thing and he reaches in his pocket and grabs his phone and holds it up. He goes, all of that’s just part of it. This is the main culprit, it’s the phone.

Now as a middle school teacher. At the time I did not deal with many phone issues. Nor did I see them as a major problem.

So, being a hard-headed as I am, I argued with him for about 20 minutes, and it wasn’t until the next year when I went back to a high school teaching that I saw exactly what he was talking about.

Somewhere about 6 months later my son came home, locked himself in his room, and was upset about the fact that, as we find out later, he had had a friend of his that had committed suicide the night before. This young man. local player in our community, played a week 9 football game. They won. They were getting ready for the playoffs, and it took 6 to 8 months for the parents to find out he was being sexploited and then, probably about 3 months after that, I get a call from a mother from across the district that said she was at a dinner party, and the person gave her my number and said, you’ve got to get a hold of me and to work with her son, who had tried to harm himself 3 times in the last month. So I explained to her that I would start out by tutoring him in math, and then I try to get him to make some homeless runs.

So, about a month and a half into it we’re on our second homeless run, and the young man says to me, “Hey, you ever gonna ask me why I hurt myself?” And this kid goes on for about 10 min explaining to me how through the pandemic in the sixth grade he was forced onto the Internet, where within weeks he had become addicted to porn. And now he had researched it on his own trying to sort of self diagnose and clear this up, and when you, the first thing I was thinking about when my mind was blown by this information was when you are that young you can’t tell your mother you can’t tell your father, and in this case couldn’t even tell his female psychologist.

So I talked to the parents and convinced them that they needed to get him a male psychologist, and the good news is now, he’s been healthy since. But what I began to realize was that these phones are having the same physiological effects, physical, emotional, and psychological that, of course, drugs and alcohol can have on our youth.

They’re just being exposed to it, too young.

About that same time I had heard a little bit about CyberSafely, and while at my age I have absolutely no interest at all in technology. The one thing that kept hitting in my mind was, this could be the subject that brings schools and parents back together as a village in the betterment of our youth. And so I really do feel as if right now the struggles that our youth are having need a village approach, and we’ve got to understand just the power of what social media and the cell phone is doing. So I hope that these type of things that we’re doing right now are a beginning to try to make for healthier youth.

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