Monday, September 20, 2010

Have we made school too emotional?

Today's AJC highlights an opinion piece by Mary Graber, a writer and college instructor who lives in DeKalb.

Below is a snippet - click here to read the entire article. It's interesting... are we working too hard to be everything to all children? Check out the data on how the number of school employees has increased exponentially over the years. Should we cut back on the support and return to simply "teaching" -- as in "imparting knowledge of a subject?" Food for thought.

Future teachers are taught that it is important for them to teach children how to learn, how to find information and collaborate, how to discuss feelings, and how to promote “social justice.” Teachers see their roles as going far beyond imparting a certain body of knowledge and set of skills. They see themselves alleviating the suffering children bring with them, shaping children into global citizens for a world free of conflict and hardship.

As a result, the most needy children today lack what I was the beneficiary of in the 1960s. They lack the challenge of clear expectations without regard to home life. They thus never learn how to leave problems behind for the task at hand.

They lack the order of a classroom of desks in straight rows. They lack the sense of responsibility that comes from being given chores, and assignments that carry the threat of failure. They lack the sense of accomplishment that comes from memorization, or writing a grammatically correct, logically argued essay. They lack the pleasure of reading and thinking on their own.

Instead, they wallow around in each other’s problems in “social and emotional learning” sessions, or in lessons that harp on “oppression.”

They work in noisy groups with expensive materials for “projects.” They sprawl out on the carpeted floors of their classrooms to “journal.” They are presented predigested math lessons in flashy programs that dazzle the eye, but ask little concentration.

Instead of teachers, they have “guides on the side” who have no clear answers and want to make the day “fun.” Instead of having the security of knowing that there is an adult in the front of the classroom who has knowledge and authority, they have someone who acts as entertainer, facilitator and emotional confidante.

Their parents have suffered in the form of higher taxes. Over the past 40 years, public school employment has risen 10 times faster than enrollment. Student population has risen by 9 percent, but we have twice as many school employees.

The cost of educating a student tripled between 1960 and 2000 (in inflation adjusted dollars). Then education spending grew by 32 percent between 1999 and 2009. Yet, we continue to slip farther and farther behind other nations in achievement. What our students are cheated of by our education system is initiative — initiative stolen by adults who see themselves as curers of social ills, rather than as people who have specific job descriptions.

This country was built on the initiative of those like Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass, men who strove to learn and overcome. Our current educational philosophy takes that away from students and impoverishes them far beyond the ways in which their circumstances do.


Anonymous said...

Very insightful article. Makes one think. I have been told that teachers are not the "sage on the stage". Teachers are facilitators! I want my childrens' teacher to use their knowledge and training to TEACH my children. I grew up with caring teachers that did not let my emotional state get in the way of learning and succeeding! Some teaching styles need to be revisited and some need to be used only in specific situations.

Anonymous said...

This article has stated so eloquently what has bothered me for twenty-three years. That's how long I've been teaching and watching those in charge change what once worked in public education. Every time some academic writes a book or comes up with some trendy program, those in charge run with it. Today's kids can't spell and their penmanship is illegible. The concept of quality work has all but disappeared since students often get credit simply for doing the assignment, not mastering the standard. I once worked for a principal who required that every child get an award on Honor's Day, which greatly diminished the value of those genuinely earned. Life is not fair and people have to work very hard every day to succeed. School systems fail students by giving them the false impression that they'll get what they want just by "showing up".

Anonymous said...

Great article. I also grew up with parents that didn't let my emotions ( or theirs) get in the way of learning. Parents may say they want teachers to set high standards but when their precious angel gets in trouble or earns a low grade, they complain that the teacher is mean or "leaving their child behind."

Anonymous said...

While I am not too far removed from the classroom desks, I can say that this is 2010, not 1969.

The problems are somewhat the same, but the world moves at a faster pace.

that being said, as a teacher now, I understand the generation these kids live in. Not to take away from those who dont have kids, but you cannot teach the same way you did in 1969 and expect it to fly in 2010. In my classroom I use a lot of A/V material. Its meant to get the kids thinking beyond their spheres of influence. We have to understand that these kids are living in a different world than most of us did and the quicker we accept that the quicker we can correct this entitlement culture for the better.

Do I have my desks in nice neat rows? No. Why because it does not encourage discussion and growth and community. I have a horseshoe that encourages connections and relationship building. Do I teach behind a desk. No! I teach from the front, back, sides and even outside.

You cannot be a teacher and expect to not let student emotions play a role in the classroom. Do I let a student who is upset over the fact she found out her mother was diagnosed with cancer take a test the same day? Only a mean and cruel teacher with no sense of emotion would do such a heartless thing.

I really dont care if their penmanship is slightly illegible. Mine probably isnt to them either. I just hope they make a clear coherent sentence.

I will agree that honors day is officially a joke to me. Since when do we have an A/B's honor roll? Since when do we reward those who make a 2.9 GPA for "trying"

This entitlement culture expects me to "give" them grades and gets mad when I "fail" them. No No No! You "earn" grades and YOU fail yourself. I am merely the bookkeeper for the grades. I do not agree with the teachers who go take a test and say "oh I can teach this now b/c I took a test on it!" and really have no content knowledge much less they have a bogus bachelors or masters degree to boot. I am glad I teach social studies and can stand up in front of class and know the order of succession to the President and know how the Protestant Reformation arose without a textbook to script my content from.

I am also frankly tired of the parents who say that I am being mean to their kids because I make them work from bell to bell on my class and God forbid on Fridays. I get the "its Friday teach, can we have a free day?" NO! I am a pushover compared to the manager of a McDonalds people. I give your kids 3 chances to take an exam. I get the Christmas tree version of my test the first time, and then they get a 95 the second time around because they actually studied.

Too many chances in schools = students who will grow up to be babysat by the government.

I never got to retake a test or re attempt an assignment and I graduated less than 10 years ago from high school. You get a 14 on the chem stays a 14. Try to study harder next time, but I do have tutorial every day after school. Oh wait, you wont show up because your too obsessed with other irrelevant things in life.

Anonymous said...

sorry about the rant. I am just tired of being pushed around because I am a teacher. I went overseas one time and when I told them I was a teacher. They were just amazed and so honored to talk with me about what I taught and my strategies

Wish I got the same feeling in my own home country sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I left teaching at the end of 2009-2010 for the things that you are upset about Anon 9:41.

Parents who are too wrapped up into giving their children everything materially, when in return they are giving the children nothing.

Parents who care more about the letter grade, than what the children has actually learned.

Everyone getting an award on honors day, unless they have really horrible behavior.

Not being able to give children the grade that they really have earned.

Having to give children second chances, third chances, etc.

In the fifteen years that I was in education, I watched what the children has to do become less and less and my job become more and more. I would read articles about being a facilitator. They would have me laughing because I was just a glorified babysitter with a Masters Degree.

I was brought up to take education very seriously. My grandfather, who grew up in Germany only went to school to about 8th grade and then came over on a boat with 14 dollars in his pocket. He worked hard, bought land and became a farmer. My dad went to school and was only able to do his homework after the farm chores were done. If his farm chores weren't done before the bus arrived, he stayed home.

It was instilled in me to work hard. I have dyslexia and struggled with learning how to read until 6th grade. Never did my parents ask for special permission for anything. I was expected to work hard and do my school work to the best of my ability.

I fear for our children and hope that they will be able to make it on their own some day, without the government or family taking care of them. Often times, I think that the government wants our children to be like this, so that they can control them.

Having gifted students who use their fingers to add and subtract in 4th and 5th grade was one of the low points in my teaching career. How are we just passing children along? Why are we doing this to them, to others, to our country?

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants to know why we are ranked 25th in the world when we spend so much - now you know.

We haven't been spending the money on actually teaching your children. We've been spending the money to make you and your children feel good about themselves.

Anonymous said...

We were given a long list of school supplies to purchase for our 3rd grader at the beginning of the school year. The teacher placed all supplies in a common area. You just pick a marker or pencil when you need one. This way the kids who don't have supplies won't be left out.

Anonymous said...

Having gifted students who use their fingers to add and subtract in 4th and 5th grade was one of the low points in my teaching career

Okay, that is just silly. There are very stringent requirements for being qualified as a real "gifted" student. If a child had to use their fingers to add and subtract in 4th/5th grade I guarantee they are not truly "gifted" as defined by the State of GA.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 9:36.. sounds a bit like socialism doesn't it? Redistribution of school supplies! This could be a lesson for our kids!

Anonymous said...

Food Fundamentals for
Healthy Kids and Communities

Thursday, September 23, 2010
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Friends School of Atlanta
862 Columbia Drive
Decatur, GA 30032

Screening of "What's on Your Plate?", a witty and provocative documentary about kids and food politics.

Following the film screening, there will be
a PANEL DISCUSSION about the Farm to Table Movement in GA
from 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Panelists include: State Rep. Stephanie Benfield; Julie Shaffer, founder of Slow Food Atlanta & Emory University's Food Service Education Coordinator; Erin Croom, Coordinator for the Farm to School Program for Georgia Organics; Charles Raison, Associate Professor & Clinical Director of the Mind-Body Program in the Dept. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine; and Cheryl Wilson, consultant to local food manufacturers and farms.

Anonymous said...

Most of my gifted students qualified when they were tested in 3rd grade and haven't ever been reevaluated. The only criteria is that they maintain an 80 average in all subjects. This is definitely not stringent enough as I've noticed time and time again that in middle school many of them do not produce work I would characterize as coming from a gifted student. Just like many things in DCSS, the label is all that matters. Some parents get insulted when you question the quality of student work and the kids act like they run the show because they're in a gifted class. I don't doubt for a second that some are counting on their fingers, because students classified as gifted are placed in all gifted classes whether it is their area of giftedness or not. This whole issue needs to be revisited and honestly reevaluated.

Anonymous said...

Kids need to be resiliant. They need to learn how to fail. We need to be keeping score at sports when they're young so they learn how to handle losing games and handle a losing season. Life isn't about winning all the time. The parent can only control so much -- the parent can't make the varsity coach make the kid play varsity ball or the college accept the kid to the college (unless you have an awful lot of money), or the girl say "yes" to the prom... if the kid hasn't learned how to brush off a loss and rejection, you risk those moments being suicidal ones. Is this what just happened in Denver? Did that player just experience his first instance of his body not cooperating and saying "you can't play ball anymore" and he couldn't handle it because he had always been treated as the superstar football player who made it to the NFL? Do you really think it is in anyone's best intersts to never expereince failure, ever? If you don't take risks that could result in failing, you can never make it really big.

Anonymous said...

The article makes it sound like teachers have chosen to become facilitators and have changed their teaching styles to do so. The reason education is watered down and touchy-feely is because parents who have no idea about classroom management or best instructional practices have bullied school systems into catering to their every whim when it comes to their child.

Don't like a child's grades? Bully the school into prohibiting teachers from recording any grades that don't make parents feel good. Don't want to pay specialists for outside services? Bully the schools into offering these services. Don't like the homework situation? Bully schools and teachers into giving more homework, then less homework, then more homework, then less homework, etc...

Instead of writing articles lamenting the fact that school has lost its "teeth", point the finger at yourselves, parents. You're the unqualified dentists that did the teeth-pulling. Now students are paying the natural consequences that occur when someone who knows nothing about a professional venue tries to make decisions and control it. You should have left teaching to the teachers and tried to see what you could do to assimilate your child into the system, instead of forcing the system to change to fit your child.

Anonymous said...

If you're up for it -- on Sunday, November 14th at 7 pm at the JCC in Dunwoody Jewish Book Festival ($11 for members, $16 non members), Wendy Mogel is presenting on the "Blessings of a B- ". One of my all time favorite parenting books was her "The Blessings of a Skineed Knee" on the resiliency of things not being perfect when you're raising kids --
Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., the author of New York Times bestseller The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, comes The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers. In The Blessing of a B Minus, parenting expert Dr. Mogel addresses the question she is asked most frequently: how do you parent a teenager when so much emphasis is placed on perfection? Driven by the high standards that are increasingly standard in American culture, parents’ worries over their children’s success are also increasing—and so are those kids’ anxieties. The drive towards college acceptance often starts in elementary school, and reaches its boiling point in high school. Taking a cue from Jewish principles, Dr. Mogel’s advice helps parents shift their focus toward developing integrity, and protecting and preserving dignity and delight as their children turn to teenagers and then adults. 678.812.4005