Monday, June 3, 2013

When Education Goes Wrong

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching.

This is the first time in memory that I am counting down the days and looking forward to walking away.  I love the children and their families but the state of education has deteriorated to the point of disbelief and I need to step aside for a moment.

I wonder, "How did we fall so far?"

It becomes difficult to remain optimistic and passionate about teaching when every day the chisel chips away at creativity and respect.  The Department of Education has placed value only on the most superficial and mechanical aspects of what it means to educate and to learn.

Teachers are given scripts to follow and judged on how well they comply with the robotic recitation.  Teaching artists who thoughtfully weave content and excitement with knowledge of the students and the material are looked down upon (or talked about behind their backs) for displaying a "rebel" nature.

Educators are now assessed on bulletin boards and charts instead of genuine student learning. Of course, that is hard to quantify isn't it?

It is happening all over the city, the state and the country.

And what is even more distressing is the rigid and misguided devaluing of the children we aim to teach.  Their natural curiosity and desire to figure things out becomes squelched in sacrifice to myriad high stakes tests.

A friend sent me this video of a TEDxTalk with Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige.  Her words reflect my frustration.

“All these amazing capacities that children bring to us in education are cut out when we drill and grill them. And when we take the natural and powerful capabilities that children have out of the education equation, we take the love out of learning.  We take the joy out of learning. And we take it out for children but we take it out for teachers too because the great craft of teaching involves knowing how to harness those amazing capabilities children have for the purpose of helping them learn in school” 

I suppose I can find some solace in the fact that I have a principal who believes in the work I do and has confidence in my abilities. That trust is certainly valuable but at the moment most teachers are the proverbial dog who gets kicked when daddy (or mommy) is stressed.

Teachers would appreciate a bone every once in a while or at least a pat on the head.


Joy Keaton said...

This just breaks my heart. I hate that this ridiculous and robotic system is killing your love of your vocation. It makes me sad for the kiddies and certainly for our future. This country is screwed if the educational systems spew out nothing but test-takers. "Real life" requires you to use your brain, but I guess it's just easier to lead sheep than to lead thinking adults.

Angella said...

This is so scary. You bring so much art and passion to the classroom and it makes me so sad to think the system is leaching it out of you. Summer is coming. Take a breath. Then go back and do it your way. Because you know your way works! Your way is a gift. Our kids need teachers like you.

Gary said...

Joy - You know me, my optimism will win out in the end as always. I just need to try harder to keep my sights on the children instead of the crazy thinking that is pulling me further and further away from actually teaching them. *sigh* And if my energetic good cheer does not return I know that you'll go and kick some ass for me.

Angella - Thank you for the kind words of support. I suspect I'll be ready to tackle the dark forces after a brief respite.

Interestingly, I posted this on Facebook and a friend attached a link to an article that basically stated that America is doing better educationally than we think.

Here is the link

Steve Reed said...

I'm sorry to hear this frustration -- I know it's got to be a nightmare teaching to tests and coping with regs. This has got to be especially difficult for GOOD teachers who can think outside the box but are discouraged from doing so. I echo what Angella said -- "Our kids need teachers like you!"

Gary said...

Ah, Steve! Thanks for that. I figure I'll always be a teacher but I have begun to wonder how that will manifest in the future. I really can see myself hosting an educational children's show and becoming a slightly hyper Mr. Rogers. Could happen!


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