Cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.
Our children desperately need you to care a whole awful lot. There are so many issues occupying our minds of late, that education has been shoved to the back burner for many of us. I can not stress enough exactly how much we need to take back the educational system in our country. My love of the classroom was known by everyone who came in contact with me, and if someone like me can be emotionally driven from the job that she adored, then things have got to change. Our schools are being depleted of many of the brightest and most caring educators, because those are the ones who can not conform to a system that works against our children.
The “teach to the test” mentality is pervasive, and in many cases the “test” is an exercise in futility. Teachers are no longer being lauded for their creativity and ability to awaken a child’s love of learning. They are now being judged on the test performance of students who have no desire to perform. They are being encouraged to channel all students to move towards a college degree, even if a career in welding or Air-conditioner repair would much more suit their talents and abilities. The problem is, when teacher’s are forced to go against their instincts about what is right, bad things occur.
For example, in an NPR article entitled "What Really Happened At The School Where Every Graduate Got Into College," we learned that in one of Washington D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods, Ballou High School graduated 164 students, and they all were accepted into colleges. Sounds great, right? Not so much! Yes the students were accepted to colleges, but many of them should not have been graduating. The school district has an absentee policy that says you can’t pass if you miss more than thirty days of school. Research found that half of the graduates missed more than three months last year. Twenty percent of them missed more than ninety days.
Two months before graduation only 57 students were on track to graduate. How then did 164 students walk that aisle two months later? Teacher’s were pressured by the administration to pass the students. They were encouraged to give students 50% on assignments that weren’t even handed in according to this article. This doesn’t surprise me, because similar occurrences went on in schools right here in Florida.
In Ballou High School, according to this article, when it looked like a student just couldn’t pass a class, they were put in an accelerated version of the class. After a few weeks of these after school classes, they received passing grades. This was against county written policy, but the administration felt pressured from the county, so they put pressure on the teachers.
I wish I could say these incidents were peculiar to this school, but this pressure put on students and teachers runs rampant. Years ago I was badgered to pass a failing football player. I explained that I would not change his grades or give him easier exams, but I would gladly stay after school and tutor him. I was told that that would interfere with football. I was so badly pressured that I called the parent and explained the situation. I asked if she wanted me to just push her son through or give him an education? She called the principal and insisted that her son be handled like every other student, and that they find the time to let me tutor him. He did pass that year, but in all of my years in that school, they never put another football player in my English class.
Not only are teachers being forced to teach to the test and pass students who have not mastered needed skills, but the powers that be are removing the classes that have always helped to round out the students. As I watched them remove art, music and drama classes to make room for classes aimed towards the tests that proved very little, I saw the students become robot like, stressed and unhappy. When they told me that Julius Caesar was no longer required because there was no time for both Shakespeare and “fact or opinion” type questions, I realized I was losing the battle.
I have been out of the classroom for several years now, and although I do not want to return, I miss watching students light up when they understood a premise I was teaching or the point of a novel they were reading. I want to believe that things can change, and students can once again feel the joy in a perfect poem, or spend time proving or disproving the hypothesis of their science projects ( many schools did away with science fair projects because they took time from learning the nuts and bolts of a test).
None of this will change, however, until parents, grandparents, teachers, the media and students themselves work together to facilitate the change. The media must stop focusing on the one in one hundred thousand teachers who physically, emotionally or sexually abuses a child, and instead focus on those who make a difference every day. Feature those that spend their own money and their personal hours doing everything in their power to build their students' self-esteem, knowledge base and future. Teachers need to stand up against a system that is tearing down those children we have promised to educate. Parents and grandparents need to support their children and the teachers who devote their hours to educate them. They need to vote for politicians who see more than test scores when they look at our children, and our children need to start caring about their educational roads to the future. Together we can change the destructive direction that this teach to the test attitude seems to be taking.
In The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman, Detective Peter Decker “cares a whole awful lot.” This first book in an exciting, heartwarming series begins with the rape of an orthodox Jewish woman as she leaves a ritual bath. Decker meets up with Rina Lazarus, and we are privy to the beginning of a wonderful team. Kellerman has spent the last thirty-two years allowing us to take part in the wonderful adventures and relationship of these two, and if you have yet to meet them...what are you waiting for?
As always, a complete review of this book follows my blog.