I’ve been out of the loop this week because I had to make an impromptu visit to Dallas for a funeral. It was interesting to return home and check my usual websites and listen to my regular radio station and people were squawking about Education in America. I find it interesting that the people who make the most negative claims about education are normally those who have been out of the loop or have never even been in a classroom have the most to say.
They are right, public education for the most part sucks. It is not preparing the type of future generations that this nation or world needs. Here is what I see as the “problem” with education.
There are some bad teachers in our schools. Heck, I know we have at least one confirmed bad teacher at our school. No, it’s not one that the administrators claim to be bad, but one that the kids have said is bad. Why do I listen to the kids? Because these kids have come to me to say, “Ms. we’re not learning anything in Mrs. X’s class. We have been reviewing the state mandated exam for a week now and we’ve been on the same question the whole time.” This same teacher refuses to adhere to our campus literacy plan, and she is a reading teacher. Also, she has awful classroom management. I’ve had to sub for her class and have witnessed it first hand—the lack of procedures, no “go to activity” when kids are done with work. Next year, she will still be around because she brown noses enough so that they find a way to keep her.
Then there are those who are there for the easy hours. And they truly are easy for them because as soon as their duty time is over, they are gone. Heck some of them are racing the kids to the parking lot. These teachers are kept around because their kids do fairly well on state mandated exams. And they should do well, this teacher’s lesson plans include a fair amount of test practice since it’s readily available material.
Lastly, teachers don’t use their voice outside the classroom. In our classrooms, we are the dictators. We create our own little worlds where we are the sole leaders and all must do as we say. But outside of that, we are followers. We allow those who are not aware of the ins and outs of our jobs to tell us what we need and should do. Those that do use their voice end up reprimanded or fired.
State Mandated Exams
I’m not against them. I think there should be some sort of exam that holds me accountable so that I don’t wake up one day and decide, I’d rather teach art than Language Arts. Plus, I want my kids to know how much they have learned. I want them to get their score back and know that they are capable.
However, I don’t want my entire life dictated by these exams. When preparation for these exams takes precedence over real learning there is a huge problem. Now some people may think, “Isn’t that the whole purpose? Shouldn’t you have to teach a certain amount of standards and then kids be tested on it to make sure you’ve taught what you need to teach?”
Yes, of course. But herein lies the problem, we are not just teaching a few standards, we are teaching load of standards. Currently, our English Language Arts Standards repeat each year. It would be impossible to teach any of those things in depth. That’s not going to help our cause. If I teach say roots and affixes at a superficial depth, do you think kids are going to remember next September? Some may, but most don’t. So next year’s teacher feels like they need to start all over again because “no one has taught these kids anything,” and when it’s all said and done, that teacher is only able to teach the same concept superficially because the kids didn’t learn it the first time. This happens year after year until the get to high school or college and the student realizes they really don’t know anything.
Sometimes the answer isn’t to add more to your plate, but to take some off. That’s what needs to happen here. This would change the way we teach. We may have to say goodbye to some of our favorite lessons, but maybe true learning will occur then—the kind that forces/allows kids to acquire knowledge.
Lastly, there is parent involvement in the higher grade. I can’t tell you the number of times I have called parents to discuss a student only to be hung up on or the phone has not been answered. I’ve sat in on numerous parent conferences knowing that everything I was saying or suggesting was going in one ear and out the other.
This week, I spent a few days with a second grader whose homework was to read 20 minutes and study math facts for 10. By the time 9 PM rolled around, she had done neither. Even if she had wanted to read, there weren’t any books around. It made me think of my students. Their parents are probably the same.
It is the job of parents and teachers to educate children. If a kid’s home life doesn’t value education, guess what the kid will do.
If anyone is going to truly do anything about education, they are going to have to read the research, employ some of the good theories out there, form a council of real teachers that are still in the classroom, and most importantly, not be so quick to judge. Good teachers bust their butts every day fighting an army of giants while answering 30 e-mails, grading papers, attending meetings, serving on committees, and delivering rock star performances to their students.