Sister Mary Christopher had a way to incentivize her class to do daily assignments and homework. She was my fourth-grade teacher the same year President Kennedy was assassinated.
Each time we completed an assignment or homework we put an X in our ledger. She only collected homework occasionally and she made doing your homework a test of your honor, or the honor system. You could get away with not doing your homework, but you always risked the surprise inspection. If you didn’t have your homework, you surely wouldn’t get a star in your ledger at the end of the week, and if you got busted enough times a note went home to your mother.
I gamed the system as much as I could get away with and only got caught a couple of times; not enough to get a note sent home, but it sure was nerve wrecking. Why, I put myself through the worry just so I could play outside longer or watch reruns of Gilligan in the afternoon. I still passed my classes with flying colors and I was proud that I did very little to get through grade school.
“Mark, did you do your homework? No playing outside until you do,” my mother would say.
“I did it at school,” I’d answer.
To this day I think the same answer is used about homework, “I did it at school.”
“Let me see it,” Mom would demand.
“I left it at school,” I lied.
That was always a good answer. It got her every time. After all, I was a good Catholic boy, attended church everyday but Saturday, why would I lie.
But as I look back on those days I regard it as a loss. Not doing homework, lying, learning the habit of procrastination and not learning enough respect of the work ethic I would not learn for another seven years, when I got my first job. Boy, was that a shock.
Homework is not only about a little extra practice, it teaches discipline. Although when we get comfortable in the way we do things, the way we have always gotten away with certain practices, we get lax. Maybe we have a stack of files to get through before a presentation the following day. We bearly paged through the information and then lazy-up and think, “I’ve got this.”
The next day you stumble and BS the way through the presentation and you wonder how you didn’t get the gold star. On the other hand, that smarmy little jerk guy that always gets his homework done, leans back in his chair all confident and waiting to take your job.
Everyone looks down on the guy who does his homework when they don’t. It’s embarrassing and so everyone takes a whack at him or her even though they agree with most of what he has to say in his report.
An adjustment here or there could make all the difference in the world, the solution could be completed and everyone could theoretically be happy with the results.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting, the group agreed immediately that the 3 cents increase on property taxes would go away. The other 1.6 cents was not discussed because without agreeing on the initial tax rate most all other categories of budget cuts or revenue enhancing items on the budget couldn’t be considered.
Dan Gecker, Midlothian District Supervisor, was one of the few on the Board that did his homework. Art Warren, Supervisor, of the Clover Hill District, said something that meant “the dog ate my homework.” He said he could not consider a document that he received only two hours before the meeting. No one else complained about not doing their homework.
Steve Elswick, Matoaca District Supervisor, had a couple of changes but stayed somewhat close to Mr. Gecker’s plan to eliminate real estate taxes by making a number of cuts that would equal the $9 million in revenue ditched.
Dorothy Jaeckle, Bermuda District Supervisor, indicated that she would go along with Mr. Gecker as long as school’s Pupil Teacher Ratios were addressed. She did her homework or at least turned in her assignment.
Mr. Gecker received an X in his homework column and might receive a star at the next meeting for his homework that he received help with. Alan Carmody, Budget and Management, gave him some help as most parents do with their student, yet he got it done.
Mr. Warren was unhappy, and because he didn’t finish either his school assignment or his homework, whined that he didn’t have enough time. The list of items on the cut list could have been assessed, added and decided on in about two hours. But he was mad because he was the “Old Man and the Sea” of the Board (15-odd-years) and someone should have held his hand through the process.
Maybe Mr. Warren should have checked in with his compatriots or attended a budget and audit meeting, or two, before grumbling that he didn’t know what was happening.
Ms. Jaeckle and Mr. Elswick have attended most meetings that Mr. Gecker and Mr. Holland co-chair.
It reminds me of when Mr. Warren, while considering through-truck traffic through River’s Bend, asked, I paraphrase, do those wheels on the trucks go around or do they…
No star for Mr. Warren and maybe we should just send a note home to his wife. You know, he might be grounded.