This is in response to Walter Backstrom’s April 5 opinion article (“Story of a single dad and education in Federal Way”).

Small efforts add up to

big changes

This is in response to Walter Backstrom’s April 5 opinion article (“Story of a single dad and education in Federal Way”).

In the 11 years I have had children in the Federal Way School District, I have repeatedly been in awe of what our teachers accomplish each day. But, that is not what I wanted to talk about today. What I want to talk about is Mr. Backstrom’s outrage over not being able to get weekly progress reports from his child’s teachers. In my opinion, he is disregarding the reality of public schools. His child is not the only child in the class. The time his student’s teacher takes to prepare his child’s progress reports is time taken directly away from students needing instruction.

What I would suggest Mr. Backstrom do is do what the rest of us informed, concerned parents do. We go through our students’ backpacks and look at the graded work. It is really easy to see what areas you need to help your student with when you see red marks all over the paper. Alternately, you could try listening to your student. They usually know what they are having trouble with.

Personally, I get really tired of listening to all of the complaints about our school district. Repeatedly, we hear what a bad job the schools are doing. But, for all of these complaints, I have yet to hear any real solutions other than “let’s go back an teach like we did in the 1950s.” The problem with that solution is that it has no basis in the reality about who our kids are today and where our society is now.

So, what do I suggest? I suggest that each and every concerned person in Federal Way commit to giving one hour a week to volunteer in our community. We can’t wait for the state to fully fund education. We can’t wait for the kids or the system to change. What we can do is make a commitment to help in some small way.

Like pennies in a piggy bank, small efforts add up to make big changes.

Shari Cotes,

Federal Way

The virtues of writing and speaking well

Tom Murphy is right on the mark.

I read with great interest the Federal Way School District superintendent’s remarks on the need to write properly (“The rules of writing make their mark,” April 9).

As an emergency substitute teacher in Federal Way, I was surprised to find that grammar was no longer taught as one thing, but spread out throughout the years in early grades. By the time they were taught prepositional phrases, they might have forgotten about nouns, which were taught earlier. Nor is there any diagramming of sentences any more.

Most students learn grammar when they take a foreign language. There, it is a necessity since one learns a foreign language from the standpoint of its grammar.

Yet all natural language grammar is composed of the same elements: Nouns, adjectives, phrases, clauses, active and passive voice, subjunctive case, moods of verbs, etc.

Nothing organizes the mind like writing. Reading is a passive activity in this regard. When you are required to organize your thoughts, decide which are important for supporting the conclusion you are trying to reach, then determining the proper order for your statements, your mind becomes both an analytical and creative machine — left and right brain engaged as one.

A well constructed sentence is a work of art that is a pleasure to read. A paper full of them becomes something that you want to save and read again later.

I always told the kids that nothing labels you more than the way you speak your mother tongue. It simply separates class from class. Thus you are a peasant, not because of your lack of wealth, but because of your lack of writing and speaking skills. If you write well, you will speak well.

So now I will ask a question so as to make this letter controversial: How many teachers could pass a test on English grammar? There is an easy way to find out — give them one. Oops, that is surely against state law, thanks to the teacher’s union.

Thank you for making your point, Mr. Murphy.

Bill Pirkle,

Federal Way

Going bananas over old bananas

I just got home from my weekly shopping at Winco Foods here in Federal Way.

Love the store, but today I was a bit disturbed when I arrived in the fruit and produce aisle. A young man was taking single bannanas and throwing them in a box for disposal, he said. I asked if I could have them, and he said that he would lose his job if he gave them to me.

They were single bannanas and no one would buy them, so they were being thrown away. I asked why they cannot go to the local food bank or maybe WICK program for pregnant women, and he said they had to be thrown away.

I was a bit upset about this as we have hungry people here in our Federal Way area. To know that healthy fruit is being tossed because people won’t buy single bananas is just crazy. I know I would buy them if they put them out with a sign reflecting a bit lower cost for single bananas so they wouldn’t be lost.

I then got up to the check out and I was talking with the clerk about this banana issue, and asked her since this store is partial employee-owned, how come they don’t say anything about those bananas being tossed. She said to me “I really don’t care.” And I guess that just really threw me for a loop.

It’s the small stuff in this world that makes a difference, and if the people in this world just “don’t care” any more about the little things (to me the big things, like people going hungry), well what does that say for Federal Way?

We all need to care just a little bit more about each other and our neighbor and the man on the corner because it’s us together, working together that can make the difference.

Allison Vossler,

Federal Way