Oy vey. I'm up to my ears in political rhetoric these days. Not only the Presidential hotbed, but being in a "border-town," I'm getting all the North Carolina ads every 30 seconds. I live in South Carolina. I don't care about "Wasteful Walter Dalton" or crazy Kay Hagin. I'm tempted to DVR EVERYTHING I MIGHT WANT TO WATCH over the next three weeks and zoom through the mud slinging commercials.
So, a political post? Yeah. I feel the need. I got fired up watching the debate the other night. I have no desire to discuss the merits of either candidate...as I really don't think either one really has a total package. I have chosen my candidate, and we'll leave well enough alone. What fired me up was the discussion on education. I'm not an educator, but I am surrounded by them...my own husband and family members, and then I do work at a university that is the foremost teaching training school in South Carolina...
I hear the candidates talk about competition and vouchers, and I think they're missing the boat altogether. What our schools need is a huge dose of ACCOUNTABILITY...not only for teachers, but also for STUDENTS and PARENTS and ADMINISTRATORS.
We wonder why our students don't measure up to the rest of the world? We have baseline expectations for them, that's why. Just pass 'em through. No Child Left Behind grades schools on a variety of factors, one of them being attendance. Low-performing schools will do anything they can to receive a "good grade" on any part of this scorecard. So, often times, children who should be suspended for consistently deplorable behavior get to come to school and continue to disrupt classrooms so they are counted in the attendance. Students who sit in class and do NO WORK are passed if they "show improvement," because we need to move the students along...why? To increase the grade on the scorecard. And the teachers who fight with said students all year to get them to behave or to write something besides their names on an assignment are to blame? (can you hear me screaming now?)
I have lived through these scenarios. Parents today are quick to believe their children over teachers. People, teachers do not get paid enough to have time to hold a personal grudge against a child. They really aren't singling the kid out. They really don't have time to concoct bad behaviors and frame your child for classroom "crimes." Our society of "me and mine" has infected our classrooms. Richy rich parents want a completely customized educational experience, in which their children are appropriately challenged, but not so much that the child cannot make an "A" without studying. Parents on the other end of the socio-economic spectrum are just trying to get by, and often don't have the time or money to assist with their student's education. A call to the greater good would be in order for all of us. There are more children than just one in a classroom. Ideals of community have been lost on us over the past 30 years. A crippling selfishness is hurting all of us. These kids who disrupt have been enabled by parents who cut others off in traffic because they're in a hurry or yell at a store clerk for making a small mistake.
Better reforms in the educational system would be to hold administrators accountable for provided relevant teacher training, instead of throwing something together to check it off their list. Hold administrators accountable for disciplining unruly students, despite what it might mean for the school report card. Hold teachers accountable for teaching and interacting with students, for creating an environment in which students can learn HOW to learn, instead of how to pass a standardized test. Curious students will fuel a good school. Hold parents accountable for reinforcing good habits at home and make participation in their child's education inevitable. Reach out to parents who don't have resources...feed hungry students and provide real-world support. Let's learn some lessons about living peaceably together in community...about not lashing out when things don't go our way. While I'm at it...a National Standardized Test would give us benchmarks to see where we need to pick up the pace, or whose educational practices are working.
It's complicated, I know. Inspiring hard work and instilling discipline are more difficult than lowering expectations and a turning blind eye to bad behavior. If there's one thing I know about people, though, we really do like clearly defined parameters. We really do want to live up to expectations of others in a healthy way. We really do want to succeed if we're encouraged. We are selfish by nature, but in order to have a healthy society, we need to put some thought into how we can service the collective community through education. And I'm off to see if I can practice what I preach.