WHAT’S WRONG WITH AMERICAN EDUCATION?

FOURTH IN A SERIES

Thanks to @DanaPerino (Fox News) and the NYT, America received yet another warning regarding the decline of reading scores in half the states. Ms. Perino continued to share her emotional upset: America is failing her students. I agree. But let’s stop wringing our hands and throwing more money at the problem. Over the past weeks, I addressed issues where America fell short in preparing her young people for the real world. My previous blogs handed America’s universities (teacher education), chronically complaining parents and inept administrators a failing grade. Here is another reason our educational system is not able to keep up with other global systems:

TEACHERS:

I witnessed it with my own child 30 years ago and with my grandchildren present day: what happens in the transition from the love of school expressed by elementary children and the sometimes complete disconnect with high school students?

As harsh as it sounds: teachers. There are three kinds of teachers standing in front our children today:

1.Those who couldn’t figure out what to do with their lives so teaching appeared to be the easiest track.
2.Those who chose teaching as a stepping stone to “something better.” Mr. Holland’s Opus, a great movie in 1995, depicted such a journey.
3.Those who are impassioned and dedicated with the love of learning in their students.

Before you cast the stones of contempt in my direction, I was all three of those! In college, I wore out my welcome in the music department. With threats of expulsion since I chose not to show up to my classes, I barely graduated. It was the ’70’s, Viet Nam war was the daily news and I, like so many, didn’t want to commit to anything. There was a bright light: my cooperating elementary school teacher saw something in me and fostered that spark to teach.

However when I started out teaching, I yearned for the stage. Teaching was my stepping stone to put food on the table until I could support myself with a singing career. It never transpired, much to my chagrin. I was a good teacher in the beginning but certainly not impassioned or dedicated.

It took time, mentoring and a Mr. Holland’s Opus moment to finally see myself as a teacher journeying through a lifetime pursuit of educating children and adults with passion and fervor.

SOLUTION:

1.If teaching was the easy track and you are just going through the motions, please change your vocation for the sake of our children. You can make more money and avoid the sometimes vicious classroom environment by doing so.

2.If teaching is your stepping stone to something better, again, please vacate your position. Kids, as young as kindergarten, can spot a teacher who is not committed to teaching. It’s reflected in your lack of energy, creativity and overall relationship with your students.


3. If you are or always was a dedicated teacher with a genuine love for every one of your students, pace yourself. America needs you to stay the course. You cannot continue to operate on overload with the day to day rigors teaching demands. My mantra: work hard and play even harder. To use the phrase bestowed on our men and women in uniform: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.

Happy New Year or Is it?

When I am not advocating better pay and treatment for teachers, I coach singing. This week began my second term where these conversations ensued:

Are you ready to return to school? No, I really don’t like it. Did you have a great break from school? No, it wasn’t long enough. Do you love returning to school? Not really. It’s just boring and not much fun. From a six year old: the only part of school which is fun is recess.

Yet every January the public schools begin the new calendar year with the same ol’, same ol’. Each year the expectations kids will become engaged in January are the same as the ones in August. And yet, the majority of our school-aged children dread the classroom. Why?

It’s really quite simple: testing, testing, testing. Add to that the lack of creativity in bringing the F word back into the classroom. Yes, FUN. How do you avoid this conundrum?

Walk in the shoes of your students. Do you want to sit in a row or a circle for weeks at a time? How would you like a test every day? Change it up! Sit on the floor, bring bean bags, wear pajamas or at least on one day per week, let the students guide the learning. You may be amazed in the outcome. Gather up your student leadership and colleagues to design units of study which reside outside the usual vanilla envelope. Don’t be afraid to rock that crazy, at times unstable educational boat. You will enjoy your job more and perhaps when kids come to my voice studio, they will be clamoring to return to the classroom.

“RESCUE THE TEACHER, SAVE THE CHILD!” raises issues and identifies solutions for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Available at Barnes & Noble/Amazon.