I enjoyed reading your comments on the Bill Maher piece on education. Several of you feel the same way I do about it. There are three important components: parents, teachers, and students. The ideal is for all three to be motivated, inspiring/inspired, and committed. We all know students who have learned in spite of negligent parents and bad schools. In fact, some of them thrived. Those are rare.
Ideally, all children would have good pre-natal care, loving parents, healthy meals, exercise, time to play, encouragement, and safety. We teachers have no idea the kinds of homes our students live in. We don't know what they go through when they aren't in school. Elementary teachers possibly have a better idea of it than we high school teachers since by then kids have built defenses. Parent-teacher conferences were always instructive because I got an idea of what their parents were like. I always told students to let me know if something were going on that prevented them from getting their work done or turning in major assignments because I'm not a mind reader and needed to know.
There are some really bad teachers, and I don't understand why they went into the profession. Most of those bore students to death and waste their time. Some do damage with their power trips and abusive actions. Goods grief! We're all on the same side. The goal I have is to help children grow up to be independent adults who become productive members of society capable of making informed decisions. There are inspiring teachers who make a positive difference in students' lives. They transcend the subject matter and encourage students to want to learn and try. I hope all of you have had teachers like those. I have.
Students mostly start out trusting, enthusiastic, and excited about school. Then years of classrooms get them out of it way too often. What's going on now is TOO MUCH TESTING and too much emphasis on it. Training students to take standardized tests is not teaching them. You can't believe the lack of knowledge and absence of critical thinking from middle school students entering high school after NCLB and all the testing. Because teachers' evaluations are tied into test scores of their students, they drill them on the "standards" and practice tests. Our director of schools is consumed with it. He was principal of a middle school with no experience in high school and is trying to turn the high schools into middle schools. Those of you who teach know what I'm talking about. The kids are so different at those ages, and the requirements are also different. It's all about test scores with him, and teachers are pressured about it, too.
I maintain that when allowed to teach students to think, study, problem-solve, analyze, communicate, and all those things we're supposed to do when actually teaching, they will be able to pass any of those tests. What's been going on for way too long now is going to take many many years to rectify. The present educational system is failing our students. Yes, there are motivated students who will rise to challenges, inspiring teachers, and involved parents. Let's hope this trend ends soon, and they can all get back to how it needs to be.