Please, watch this video.
Has this become the way of the American educational system? Three times four can be eleven as long as the student explains themselves properly. Let’s think about this. IF the student were able to properly explain the process of multiplying three times four, then by default would they not be able to get the proper answer of twelve as well? As a current teacher in this mess of an educational system, the above problem is only one of so many that plague teachers on a daily basis.
Starting Monday I will be beginning my third year of teaching. My first year was at an international school with students from all over the world. Some came to America for a better life and others were forced to or they wouldn’t be alive today in their home countries. Their bright, little faces shined with promise each time they took ownership of the English language. I let my naiveté guide me. I knew nothing about what ESL students couldn’t do. Because, see that’s what happens. Teachers get tired and they create these lists of what their students can’t possibly do. I had a few of the “veteran” teachers tell me that I had good ideas for the ESL students but that they wouldn’t be able to do it. When I arrived at the school I took one look at the curriculum and saw it expected these students to be at Point B and by the end of the year be at Point C, meaning the curriculum assumed these ESL students already knew basic English words. I don’t know about you, but when I took beginning Spanish I didn’t know how to properly construct a sentence in that language, why should we expect anything different? So I scraped where the curriculum started and began at Point A. I showed them the English alphabet and little by little began to express to them how these letters comprise words, and when you put certain words together you can create sentences. I reinforced to them that when they get this formula down, they can continue to repeat it until they have a paragraph. When my students finally had this foundation, I moved on to dissecting English pieces. We read and performed “Romeo & Juliet,” we read “A Tell-Tale Heart” and illustrated our own books, and by the end of my course my beginning ESL students were able to write a five paragraph, persuasive essay on “pink slime” and the healthiness of their cafeteria food. A level of learning that hadn’t been previously achieved. Don’t tell me it cannot be done.
This past summer I went to a lot of great trainings for my specific subject. I was filled with so many wonderful ideas that I began to keep a journal. I actually enjoyed going to teacher trainings during the summer because it recharged my teaching battery. It kept me fresh, it gave me new ideas, and it made me excited about the upcoming school year. These past few weeks we’ve had to work at school and attend various meetings until the students arrive Monday. We were told about different “types” of students we have coming to us this year. Some teachers became deflated on the possibility of having these certain “types” in their classes, and some for very good reason, because see our quest for political-correctness has spilled over into the educational field. The idea that everyone needs to be treated the same, everyone despite whatever label they may have need to be in the same class.
Well guess what? Education is not one size fits all. Some students thrive in a regular-style classroom, whereas some students need special support. Yet, due to educational “equality” we think all students need to be in the same environment or somehow it’s unfair. It’s a vicious and hypocritical circle that isn’t just limited to our educational system, but so many other factors in our government today. We’ve allowed so many labels to persist and corrupt the system. The level of bureaucracy has reached a point that makes me wonder, will we ever return to a time where students actually receive a quality education that they deserve?
For the longest time, I’ve thought the educational system needs to be “unschooled.” Unschooling is a method and philosophy of teaching that completely rejects our current method of education. It taps into curiosity, play, personal responsibility, internships, personal interest, work experience, travel, and the adults and mentors in a student’s life. Another key aspect of “unschooling” is social interaction. A lot of people think being in school means you are automatically receiving social interaction. This isn’t an experience shared by all. Some students’ experience social rejection, isolation, and bullying, all three the opposite of a positive social interaction experience. Personal responsibility is not emphasized, and some teachers don’t resemble role models or mentors for students.
How would students know to positively include people in various social interactions if they are never taught it? They are with us more during the day than their own parents and family. We have to be their family. We have to teach them personal responsibility. We have to teach them to work hard. We have to teach them to be equipped to handle the “real world,” which is the true mantra behind unschooling. We have to be the role models. We have to love them. Even the ones that are hard to love, they have to be loved the hardest!
So, as Monday approaches quicker and quicker, I will not be looking at the “labels,” I won’t be listening to some teachers on what they heard about so-and-so, I won’t be dreading certain class periods before I have even met them.
But, I will have some things for them on Monday.
I’ll have a smile and a handshake ready for them. I will have love for them. I will show them their best selves this year, because when you have that absolutely nothing can stop you, not even your own educational system.
H.L. is a photographer and teacher hailing from the great state of Texas. She attended the University of Texas at Austin where she majored in Radio-Television-Film and focused on U.S. Latino & Latin American media studies. During this stint, H.L. worked for HerCampus Webzine, where she had her brief love affair with writing editorials and being an online photographer. After living and loving Austin, she returned to small-town Texas to teach young people…scratch that…trying to teach young people and not letting her classroom become a real life version of the “Hunger Games.” Returning felt more like coming on to the set of “Hart of Dixie,” where H.L. feels like she brings big city knowledge & fashion to this small, but sweet, town. Her other loves include sweet tea, Jane Austen anything, Paris, bicycling (complete with basket & bell), LOTR, and folk music.[divider] [/divider]
Absolutely gorgeous featured image by Nico Nordstrom Photography