First, I should specify that I have no children yet. Still, I have been thinking about having one or more, so as a teacher, it’s inevitable that I would think about the education of my future children.
I’m sad to report, I think I want to homeschool them.
Now this is not a criticism of homeschooling, but more the crystallization of my disenchantment with the direction of American Education. What I see ahead is a model of education that is increasingly narrow, developmentally detrimental, disparate, and corporate in both process and product (the children). I know eventually, that is what will drive me out of education, and what will keep my child/children out of it.
Perhaps, I am biased because I actually teach children instead of pontificating about education. Or maybe I am spoiled, as my own education, which before high school was completed in Europe, included in-depth projects, cross-curricular connections, experiential learning, and no bubble-in tests. Maybe it is simply that as much as I try to stay true to what research and experience show is best for children, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do so without risking being labeled a trouble maker, even at a highly successful school like mine, which has up to now enjoyed a lot of room to be creative.
This past week, I think the students in my Gifted class have contributed to my feeling that I have not resisted the new direction as well as I like to think I have.
Student: Ms. Elle, I’m working on a fan fiction story. I was wondering if you could critique one of the chapters for me.
Me: Sure. Just give it to me about a week before you need it.
Student: Thanks Ms. Elle. I want you to judge it harshly; not at a high school level. By the way, why don’t we write any fiction?
Me: Well, last year I had to prepare you guys for the writing test, so there wasn’t much time left.
Student: So, we only have time for what’s on the test?
Me: No, but there’s so much that isn’t on the test, I have to pick what we can do in the time we have. I’ll try to fit a story in this year.
In truth though, as much as I didn’t plan it this way, I do feel like writing fiction got left out because I was so focused on giving them enough practice for the state’s FCAT Writes. Corporate Reformers: 1, Elle: 0
Then there was incident 2, after I finished explaining to my students how to fill out their district data charts based on the assessment they had just completed. I should specify that the assessment is useless to me, since it assesses all benchmarks each time, so it does not tell me if students have mastered the ones I actually taught, thus requiring me to give them a separate assessment on it. Additionally, this particular assessment contained about 5 errors (typos, no correct answer, question not matching the reading passage) out of 13 question.
Student 1: Ms. Elle, what was the point of that?
Me: Well, it’s so that you know how you are doing on your benchmarks.
Student 2: But it only has one question for each benchmark. How does that tell you if we get it.
Me: That’s why I give quizzes.
Student 3: Well, if the quizzes tell you if we get it, why do we have to do this chart?
Me: The district requires it.
Student 1: You know, in the time we just spent learning about these charts and coloring them, you could have taught us something.
Yeah, I don’t even want to keep score on this one. Basically, as things stand, I have a district assessment that tells me nothing every two weeks, then I have to do remediation for students who didn’t show mastery (though I have to give my own quiz to know which ones), then I have to retest. Of course, the also have to fill-in their charts. With all the time that is spend on these things, teaching takes a back seat, which is really sad. However, I am sure this will produce just the right product: graduates who have been taught to think within the confines of a Scantron sheet.
I just know my future child won’t be one of them.