*I understand that my comments are not true of all schools. I can only speak of my experiences in some urban school districts in the U.S.. In addition, as stated in another post, I am going to be honest and state what is really happening without the fluff that disintegrates our ability to determine the root of the problem and tackle the real issues in an effort to discover solutions.*
There are many articles and posts on the Internet that explain the challenges in the current educational system here in America. Writing about all of them here would be too much, so instead, I’ll write about the ones I find the most troubling.
– Teachers only work for 9 months a year. This is one of the best jokes told! Dedicated teachers work throughout the day, and against our Will, throughout most of our sleep as well. You are constantly reflecting on how a lesson went, how you could improve it, what a child told you that day, how you could best meet that child’s emotional needs, what activity you could share with parents, how you can get parent to attend the event…the list goes on and on. You teach during the 8 hours and then you plan, grade classwork, locate materials, create differentiation, design leveled homework, complete building paperwork, complete paperwork from other sources, create a new bulletin board, restructure a center to fit a new students’ needs, make photocopies and that list also goes on and on. These additional hours throughout the mornings, evenings, lunchbreaks, bathroom breaks (ha! what are those!?!), weekends, holidays and summer months are not completely counted for in our “hours worked” (and let’s be real, not in our paychecks either!). These are the hours that weaken the teacher who’s been at it for years. These are the hours that split a marriage. These are the hours that make a mother feel like she’s failing at giving her own children the time they deserve. These are the hours that make friendships become distant. These are the hours that are ignored in society, while negatively impacting the lives of teachers around our country.
– The curriculum is modernly updated and laid out for teachers to then plan from. The new resources always seem promising, but then reality sets in. Technology continues to advance, and district budgets rarely do, thus leaving classrooms with equipment that is not updated and thus not properly functioning. There is also the quickly shattered hope of
receiving proper training for the new resources, as the school year begins and you are expected to just jump right in and begin to teach. Then you have the district that is constantly on the look for new curriculums. It seems like every year a new textbook is purchased and adopted in as the new Bible. Two years later, you are likely to see this pattern repeat. How are the students and teachers expected to really get into the meat of the curriculum in such a short amount of time? Switching resources every few years is hurting the educational development of the students, and it is not permitting your staff with the time to dive into the manuals and truly take ownership over the content. Growth takes time, yet we seem more interested in boasting at the next board meeting about our newest purchase and all of the studies around it (by the way, you know who paid for those studies, right!?!) than we care about permitting the length of time needed for honest data to reflect the effectiveness (or lack thereof) with the newest program. On top of that, with all of the lesson plan requirements with the latest programs, how is a teacher to model creativity when our ability to think outside the box appears to be shrinking with each new purchase and the mandated requirements that keep rolling in with them?
– Federal funding helps with the costs of parent engagement activities/events. It is nice that the government helps with funding for parental engagement activities, but what is the point in spending the money if we cannot get the parents into the school? Maybe instead of throwing more and more money into school events, we should uproot the real problem that everyone is overlooking? There are more and more schools as the years pass by, where parents are not engaging in the education of their children. Now again, I know this is not all schools, but it is becoming much too common. Some districts go so far as to provide transportation, meals, childcare and varying dates/times, and yet parents still do not attend. Some people may say, “Well the parents might be at work.” That could be true, but I have seen many families where that is not the case. We, as a society, need to begin to believe in the power and importance of education. I can talk for 180 days to a child and tell him that school is important, but if his mother never shows up for a report card in three years, what message is the child really seeing acted out? It used to be the grandmothers that would come in and participate in the child’s educational experience, now those dear ladies have passed on and the newer generations do not participate in the same manner.
– Administration observes teachers and provides constructive feedback to aid in their professional development. I am sure education is not the only field where your superior comes and watches your work performance and then provides you with a review. This makes sense and there truly needs to be accountability in the workforce; however, how many people are playing a game during that observation and do not honestly perform that way during the day-to-day routines? I’m not saying that every teacher has to be outstanding during every single lesson, but I do believe that students should not have to suffer due to districts retaining ineffective teachers. One does not have to stick around a classroom, hallway, or teacher’s lounge long to know who’s the pro and who should go. Teaching is just like any other career, some people are not cut out for it. I think we should acknowledge this truth and provide administrations with the authority to dismiss teachers who are hindering the learning of students. After all, are they not the priority? Yes, some sneaky stuff might take place and unfair treatment will happen, but the saying is true, “life is not fair.” Pretending that people are effective in their jobs is not going to benefit anyone in the long wrong. The students suffer. The district suffers. And the teacher suffers because professional growth cannot genuinely take place when authentic feedback is masked.
– Creating an environment where all learners succeed. Yes, it would be nice if everyone could succeed and do amazingly well, but the truth of the matter is that we are all designed differently. Some of us are good at math, and other will never get it. Why do we try to reshape the expectations and readjust the bar, just to allow for everyone to succeed? Now, do not get me wrong. I’m ALL about high expectations and setting the bar high in an effort to work with students and provide supports so that they can meet those standards. However, I do not believe that everyone will get to the same academic level. As a student, I was not the smartest. Things did not always come easy to me. But that was just life. I learned to adjust, I learned to find my niche and I learned to be satisfied with meeting my personal goals, instead of comparing myself to my peers. Too many times I have seen teachers lower the bar (and sometimes due to the pressure of others), or make accommodations to the point that they inhibit the student’s ability to persevere and learn valuable life lessons. I think that at times we forget how much is learned from the experiences where we don’t “succeed” based on other people’s levels of success. Schools should provide a place where today’s youth can discover their unique strengths, instead of all being shoved into the same square cutout, or instead of allowing wrong answers to be counted as right as long as a student can explain his/her thinking (No! It’s still a wrong answer! Stop trying to make it something it isn’t.)
As I stated earlier, the list could go on and on, but I believe you get the gist by now. There are many problems plaguing the educational system. But even more troublesome is that these problems are not retained within the school building’s walls. These problems are seeping out into society and they are being masked in an effort (perhaps unconsciously by some) to ignore the real issues that are going on.
Check back for Part 3/3…
Ahmeli…that we would address the real troubles facing our schools today, instead of trying to apply Band-Aids to the now gaping wounds.
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