Education is becoming a slippery slope. Let me tell you why:
We have forgotten the children.
The basic need for education is to have children to teach and we have forgotten their basic needs.
As a first grade teacher myself I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the demands and expectations placed upon these tiny 6 year olds. They have barely been on the earth! They have barely lived. They are cognitively, emotionally, physically, and mentally still developing. Instead of breaking down and assessing what the children developmentally and even emotionally need, we are burying their needs with demands and wants from the states and legislates.
What boggles my mind is that a good amount of the people working in the education departments HAVE BEEN TEACHERS. It is my opinion that most teachers work for the common good of the children. Yes, there are a few “oddballs” that sneak their way in, but predominately, teachers teach because they want to make a difference. Have we forgotten what it means to be a teacher? As of late, that is how I feel. I went into teaching because I saw a need and knew that I had the skills and motivation to help fill it. Quickly, my young excited nature turned somewhat bitter and cold when state mandated tests and data consumption became the main focus of my teaching. No longer could I indulge in the arts, or teaching the now called “interconnections” subjects (science, art, social studies). Instead I was handed test after test, with no support or training, and expected to not only administer it but also expected to take away from instruction time to administer it. That is not acceptable.
This infuriates me the most because if those “big wigs” higher up recalled what teaching is, they would realize that these tests and expectations are not doable or meaningful in the slightest. I studied validity and reliability in college. I understand the need for assessment to drive instruction. In fact, I follow the Leader in Me program where my students collect and track their own data in the areas of homework, reading minutes, DIBELS reading tests, as well as their own behavior. I see the effect of data. My students see it too. But the way it is being done has left the basic needs of the children forgotten and unmet. The opposite effect being stressed and frustrated teachers, confused about why they even got into teaching in the first place, if all we have become are test administrators.
The children have been forgotten. They are not robots created to be plugged into a computer and expected to perform. Half of my students don’t even have computers at home, so the skills needed to take the tests is not even present. A teacher sees the child’s struggles at home and does his or her best to accommodate at school. Often the students basic needs of food, safety, and shelter are not met at home. There is abuse, lack of food, poverty, divorced homes, to name a few. All of these effect the child in the classroom. Tests don’t adhere to that. Tests are unforgiving. How can a teacher who is pushed to her limit by state legislation be expected to meet the needs of her students in these circumstances? She can’t. So the tests backfire, leaving frustrated students feeling guilty about doing poor on their test and in turn lowering their self-esteem and their ability to succeed in school. As well as leaving teachers guilty or incapable of meeting expectations set too high. It knocks the wind out of everyone.
The pressure must be taken off. Trust the teachers. Make a better screening process so the “oddballs” don’t make it through. Increase the bar for teachers, but remember that this job of teaching is not easy– and we know that. We come in knowing this is going to be difficult, exhausting, and discouraging. Please don’t add to those emotions by expecting us to administer tests to children who are not ready to receive them. Yes, data is essential to instruction when it is cognitively and developmentally appropriate. When it decreases time for the “interconnections” subjects and stresses only reading and math where does the creativity and curiosity of students go? Back burner. Not enough time. Not important. Must focus on reading and math.
We are raising up the next generation year after year. The teachers, who so wonderfully see each child as individual and capable of great things, are also forgotten for the important role they play in the upcoming generation. Let us do what we signed up to do. Let the children be children. They are capable of so much, but it must be done step by step, and teachers know how to assess each child for what they are ready for or what they need more time in.
Don’t forget the children.
Inspired from this article, and my constant battle with teaching.
Sometimes my daily dose of happy is a vent. Words help me to release pent up energy. Happiness comes from standing up for what is right, I have never been one to see a problem and let it continue.