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Teaching Despite the System

December 14, 2014

I have a friend who is a teacher. We’ve been talking over the past few years about lots of different things, one of those being her career as a teacher, all the things that she does, the students she teaches, the materials she uses, and the educational system in general. Great conversations, to tell you the truth. The things that teachers do these days, teaching our children, future generations, if you will. They are, in effect, responsible for the education of our future leaders, our future workers, our future military, our future thinkers, our future educators, and so many more. They have a huge responsibility. And for the most part, most of them are doing a tremendous job. Well, they’re doing a tremendous job despite what they have been given in an education system that is becoming more and more difficult to teach in, more dysfunctional, and even to learn in.

In some areas the system is getting better. People are starting to recognize more the importance of proper health care and nutrition, and how that impacts our students abilities to learn. At least here in the Boulder Valley School District of Colorado, they are starting to serve healthier lunch choices, not such heavy carbs that inhibits the student’s ability to learn. So kudos to the food services group here in BVSD.

Every two to four years the system has the potential of significant changes made, typically not for the better, but simply because there’s someone new in political office. Mostly because this time around the election swung from a D to an R, or back again. Funny thing is, that that elected official is a lawyer or salesman or rancher or whatever, not an educator. I can’t think of one who is or was an educator. But they seem to have this grand idea of how the education system could be better. Oh wait, not that. It’s because the politicians corporate donors have a better idea of how the education system should be run, one in which would benefit the corporation financially. One that would produce worker drones for future jobs in the corporate world.

No child left behind. Or, as it should be called, leave all children behind. Or was it leaving no child left behind on the road to nowhere. This plan has to date been the worst for our education system.

One of the big issues I have with the education system is the standardized tests. More and more, teachers are forced to teach to the tests, not the subject matter. Teach how to take the tests better. How well the student does has an impact on how well the teacher is graded, how well the school is graded, how well the school district is graded, and so on. It’s not about teaching the student the subject matter, or teaching the student how to learn and be problem solvers, or how to be citizens of our communities. So the incentive is to teach to the tests to make sure the students do well and the teachers and school system receive favorable grades as well.

And more and more, those standardizes tests are being administered by private companies, the tests made up by private companies, the material written by private companies. These corporations are making out like bandits on the backs of our students, but mostly at their expense.

My teacher friend has repeatedly commented on how her job has become increasingly more difficult. That she has so much more paperwork to do, new systems to learn to account for how well the students are doing compared to expectations, which are determined by how well they do on these standardized tests. The teachers are having less and less time to actually teach the students, to help them learn, be present for them, to help them be future members of our society.

What, you ask, do I think should be done about it?

  1. Fully funded education pre-k through college graduation (bachelors or associate).
  2. Instead of basing school funding on property taxes or local taxes, make it equal across the nation, accounting for cost of living of course. But make sure that every student in every school all across the country have the best possible materials.
  3. Better requirements for healthier foods served at the schools. Studies have shown that consuming healthier organic foods, lower carbs, can improve a student’s innate ability to learn, to absorb information.
  4. Quiet time, 20 minutes at the start of the day and 20 minutes at the end of the day. This one helps the students to become present at the school in the morning, to calm them down, get them ready for the day. And at the end of the day to close out, calm down, and prepare for their after school activities and going home. It works, look it up.
  5. Do away with the standardized tests. Teach the subject matter. Teach the kids how to be problem solvers, how to think. Not what to think, but how to think for themselves.
  6. Teach the kids basic tasks that the everyday person does after graduation. How to balance their books, create a budget, cook, be able to take care of themselves.
  7. The Department of Education becomes the Department of Educational Excellence, researching the best environments and systems from all around the world, trying out these ideas in schools, making sure teachers have the best tools that they need to teach.

We can throw more and more information at our students, more and more requirements. But without providing the student’s with the ability to increase and improve their innate ability to learn, none of that will help in the long run.

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