Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Education - My Views

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.


froggy said...

We had an eight year run up to the first high stakes test that turned our entire state education system upside down. Gorilla Boy's class was the first class held to the standard, class of 08. What a disaster. It was only given once again. This year the kids are taking a whole new set of tests. The money spent on all of this is mind boggling - what we could have done with that money.

mrs. miss alaineus said...

whatever dubya said about how nclb was going to eliminate the 'soft poverty of low expectations' was the factor that made it easier for the expectations to slide even lower. . .

but hey i can do a science fair project as a 6th grader without a purpose, hypothesis or any data and still get higher than a c.

we've done nothing to counter those low expectations when we keep reinforcing them by accepting work that is far below what we know the students are capable of doing.

sigh. but then i'm the mean teacher because i refuse to spoon feed the kids and make them look words up and find their own long division mistakes.


Joy said...

YES!! Keep up the good work, Mrs. Miss A!!! Keep those standards high!

I know, Froggy. It's tragic. And way to go to you, too!

Anonymous said...

Ah! This is great! Thank you for putting to rest many
misconceptions I had seen regarding this as of late.

Anonymous said...

Oh! This is awesome! Thank you for countering a few
misconceptions I had seen regarding this lately.

Sam said...

Just think Joy, if I would have had you as an english teacher you could have molded me into greatness, instead of just ordinary.

Sam said...

Just think Joy, if I would have had you as an English teacher you could have molded me into greatness, instead of just ordinary.

Berry Blog said...

The irony in the testing is that the skills ( cross disciplinary, thinking, problem solving, analysis, synthesis) we are not given time to teach them, are included in the testing but the practices we are coerced into using are not condusive to delivering the curriculum.
But who would doubt a legislator's (who is successful in the hardware business, or insurance. or banking or selling tires) judgment on what is best for our kids.
When yu look at it, most any determined middle school child who doesn't like homework for example, can get his mama bear mummy to campaign enough, all the way to the legislature if necessary, to get a law passed to excuse him and many others for his special need.
Yup...education is failing our students, all right...or is it? In a democratic society arent we getting what we wanted?