Yanno, I was going to have a lovely, quiet morning. Feh.
After a much needed eleven hours of sleep last night (evacuated relatives, non-stop fire coverage, no school, no work, and a busy Las Vegas weekend) I stretched, poured my coffee and began to plan my day. Fire coverage is dwindling (thankfully and finally), the Santa Ana winds have completely died, and fire fighters are focused on what’s remaining — still a concern, but nothing like it was even a day ago.
I was cozied up to the MoH’s laptop (instead of my beloved mac since the RT is home and is putting in iTunes time) getting ready to do a bit of research on a recipe I’m going to tackle and I came across this article.
Remember when I had the nuclear melt down over the Jeep Princess a week or so ago? Well, that was mild in comparison to the flare of heat I felt when I read it. The rush of anger, barage of razor sharp opinions, and flow of thoughts bottled for the better part of a year made their presence known. Matilda the Hun is alive and well in the smoke-filled skies of Paradise.
And to put the turd in that caustic punch bowl…
Dub-yah just landed in Air Force One to survey the burn areas.
I was going to go get paint for the RT’s room, which we’ve been sanitizing and organizing together. Miracles do happen. I was going to be physically constructive for the better part of the day instead of exercising my agile fingers and brain. But the article was a serious deterrent. And Dub-yah is guilty by association with NCLB.
Before I really get going, consider this: In his sophomore English class, the RT has to read whatever he wants — at least 100 pages a week. No big deal. He has to keep a list of what he reads and make a couple of entries in a notebook. No guidelines, just a note or two about each item he’s read. At the end of six-weeks, the teacher will go around the class, look at each list, “pick one of the items on the list” then expect the students to write about that item in class for a grade. Can the RT do this? Of course. The kid reads. He always has. And yes, he can write about what he reads, if the teacher is willing to subject herself to his tortuous handwriting. But what is the real point of the exercise? To catch the students who can’t, don’t, or haven’t read? Or to confirm the original assessment that their writing skills are seriously lacking, and that even though you haven’t taught them anything to begin to correct this problem, you’re going to test them? A test is supposed to be a measure of more than just a student’s learning. It’s a measure of the effectiveness of one’s teaching, also. Or the quality of the test. Or the material taught. Or the motivation of the students. Or the motivation of the teacher. Okay, so this is going no where fast.
This video sums things up fairly well.
Until everyone — EVERYONE stops thinking that “things” should remain the same as in the good ol’ days, and that what and how you and I were taught should be fine because “we turned out just great…” then we’re part of the problem. Unfortunately, a very large portion of the teaching force is part of the obstacle to change. A huge number of teachers are reaching retirement, and although many have had productive careers influencing countless children in positive ways, the sheer idea of having to learn radically different techniques that involve a strong understanding of how technology works is something less than attractive for many. Not all. Many.
Those interested in learning are facing obstacles caused by the dysfunctional system, the equipment, and the often less than knowledgeable quality of support staff. I’m sure I’ll burn with the politically incorrect in hell for making these statements — another problem. The world of education is quite two-faced. Face to face, it’s all peaches and rainbows. Behind the scenes, it’s all snarking and biting. It would make a terrific reality show.
There are newer, more idealistic teachers coming into the profession, some of whom are from different professions. And yes, they have much to learn from their more experienced colleagues, and should definitely listen. But it rarely works in reverse, and that’s too bad. Why is it that as we age, we close our minds? We think those younger than us, or from outside our system, lack knowledge and ability. We forget how we felt when we were their age, and what we knew. There is a very odd culture within the educational system that is unlike that of others who understand the value of working together, and sharing ideas. Individuals in the medical profession, engineers. There seems to be a fear that prevents the development of an intellectual community within the educational system. That if you gain certain heights, you’ve forsaken the masses, and are to be questioned. What is that called?
No, not all teachers exhibit that level of closed mindedness, but many.
I’ve raised three sons who are pleasant, productive people. They’ve watched some television, played some video games, played some sports, and had to endure some chores to earn an allowance. And they’ve had quite a bit of time to learn to entertain themselves with books and hobbies. To use their imaginations. To feel boredom and develop a willingness to do something about it.
Unfortunately, they’ve also had a fairly lack-luster experience at school with primarily lecture-driven instruction supported by textbooks that are so sanitized it’s a wonder the information inspires any degree of critical thought. They’ve had county schools, city schools, Montessori schools. They’ve had experienced teachers, new teachers, engaged teachers, and people who should have been encouraged out of the profession before their second year. They’ve attended low-performing schools, mediocre schools, and extremely high performing schools. It doesn’t seem to matter. We’re good at perpetuating the notion that learning occurs in a box in this country. Extremely.
It would be so easy to launch into a diatribe on parenting at this point because parents are the primary responsibility for their children. But if society acknowledges that not all parents are capable of raising their children appropriately (and they’re not because anyone can have sex, and unfortunately children can’t choose their parents), then the educational system has got to provide. (Rush Limbaugh is probably choking right now…) And what is provided can’t be the same across a district, or a county, a state, or the country. That thinking persists because it’s easy. That thinking persists because we’ve been doing it for so many years.
That thinking will persist until the people who work in the public education system work together to change their thinking.
It’s not challenging. You just have to be willing to wrap you head around the idea that things are possible instead of not. It’s called optimism. Optimists are shot down in the educational system. Those who stand out and work to achieve different possibilites are frowned upon and talked about. Surely, innovation is suspect. Negativity and snarking about “the pendulum” swinging back again inevitably begin. How nice to be able to act in such a sanctimonious way. To think that the kids are going to hell in a hand basket and that you can’t do your job because you’re not being given the same material you used to be given.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but school is supposed to be a place where you actually learn, and not show up to show what you know. Increasingly, it needs to be a place where students learn HOW to learn — impossible if someone is standing in front of the room talking and then assigning homework. When’s the last time you had to sit in a room and just listen to someone who couldn’t possibly know all he or she should know to teach you? Fun, wasn’t it? And yet we subject our kids to that.
I’m not suggesting that educators aren’t intelligent. No one in any profession can possibly contain all the information necessary to truly teach. Things have changed. Information is available everywhere. Students need their teachers to understand what and where the sources are, teach them how to discern credible information from what is faulty, and push them to develop their own hypotheses and investigate their own theories. Publish their own findings. Constructively argue the validity of their own findings.
Teachers are the key. They have to be. They can’t continue to complain about their administrators, the parents, the students, the lack of materials, lack of technology, support staff, pay, and stress on the job. All of those issues can be part of the problem, but when has complaining accomplished anything?
This rant is far from done. But it’s all over the place today, and god forbid that someone out there correct my choice of syntax and punctuation (which is much easier to do than use the questions I’ve posed to analyze and evaluate their own part of the problem).I respect the fact that anyone can stay in a profession for their entire career. That they can look back on their accomplishments and feel good about them. That they can speak as an “expert” because of that experience and make comments about “what the problem is” without considering that they, too, could have a share in being the problem.
That it can’t possibly be only the students. That it can’t possibly just be their parents. That it can’t possibly be just the administration, or the lack of funding, or the feds. That maybe. Just maybe. They are partially to blame because their thinking, their strategies, their unwillingness to become part of a solution, take action, and let go of their negativity, could be part of “the problem.”
When you examine the lives of individuals who are successful, and listen carefully to what and whom they’ve been influenced by, rarely to they say it had anything to do with their education. And if it does, it’s a dedicated teacher here or there. A coach, a professor, a dance instructor.
Ask a writer whether he or she learned to write in school. Rarely, if ever, are they able to attribute their skill, talent, and passion to any writing teacher — unless one considers a particular author a teacher — and I do. So do they.
Ask yourself to what extent your education inspired you. And not just through the K-12 years, but beyond. And then wonder what works, for whom, and why?
Or just pat yourself on the back that you made it to the end of this.