School Teacher: One Teacher's Perspective on Education in America
You will see no statistics in this hub. No graphs, no poll results and no quotes from politicians or leading experts on education. This is exactly what the title says it is: one man’s perspective on the state of education in the United States in 2012.
Do I qualify to give such a report? Well, as a citizen of this country the automatic answer is yes! However, I bring a little bit more than citizenry to the table for this discussion. I was a classroom teacher for eighteen years spanning thirty years. I have taught in grades 5-12 and even one year of junior college. I was a single parent raising a school-aged child and even taught my own child for three years. I have seen the change that has occurred in the education system in this country over six decades and so yes, I bring a little bit more to the discussion than your average Joe on the street.
I do not need a panel of experts to tell me that the education system in this country is broken. If you do not believe it to be so then I will respect your opinion. I am not here to attack your beliefs; I am here, simply, as a concerned citizen and former educator. I am also not here to debate you. I do not debate. You are entitled to your opinion and I to mine; no amount of debate will change those opinions and I do not feel like undertaking an exercise in futility in trying to do so.
Do I have hope for the future? You bet I do but that hope is based on the supposition that intelligent decisions will be made, decisions that are “outside the box” and not mired in traditional thinking. It is also a hope based on the belief that parents will band together to affect change and insist upon that change for the sake of their children.
There is too much to cover in one article so what follows are the most important issues that I want to cover today. Perhaps another article will follow with the other points I deem of importance. Perhaps not! I easily grow tired of beating a drum that nobody listens to, so I may lose interest in this subject very soon.
Let’s see how it goes.
TOSS AWAY THE GARBAGE AND START OVER
As long as schools depend on Federal funding and as long as that funding is based on standardized test results then we will continue to have problems in the educational system. What we see today are teachers teaching to the test. That is not education! In schools across the United States we see children being taught to be test-takers and not problem-solvers. Again, that is not education!
Teachers must be given the freedom to expand on the base of knowledge and not shrink that base down to a pre-ordained set of facts and figures. We are graduating a new generation of citizens who are fully capable of parroting information but who in fact have no idea what the information means.
The greatest skill we can teach the youth of today is to reason; we must give them the ability to analyze a problem and find a logical solution to that problem. With that life skill they can succeed; without it they will fail in life.
No Child Left Behind was a dismal failure. Standardized testing as a measure of knowledge is a dismal failure. Toss out the old ways of thinking which have been ineffectual at best and find new ways to attack this problem.
EDUCATION AND THE LOVE OF LEARNING BEGIN AT HOME
I cannot emphasize this fact too much! At an early age children need to be taught the value of learning….at home! Children are naturally inquisitive; they want to learn. Feed that desire as a parent. Your children are your number one priority in life. Treat them as such! At an early age instill in them a love of knowledge. As parents you are their number one influence followed closely by their teachers. As they grow older your influence diminishes as does their teacher’s and peers begin to exert more influence. You need to lay the groundwork while you still have influence.
Read to them often and encourage them to read. Do not let them grow up lacking in the most basic of skills.
School them in the Socratic method of learning. Do not ignore their questions or answer in a condescending way when they have questions. Answer their questions with questions of your own. My son once asked me how many people were buried in a cemetery we were driving by. I pulled the car over and we walked over to the cemetery. I asked him how we could determine how many were buried there. He said we could count them. I said that would require a whole lot of time. How might we better arrive at an answer? Eventually he decided that if we counted the number in a ten square foot section then we could estimate with a fair amount of certainty. That, my friends, is learning and it is the skill of reasoning all in a nice, neat package.
Do not give them answers; teach them to find answers on their own. Unless, of course, you have a strong desire to still be answering basic questions for them when they are thirty years of age. J
PAY FOR THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST
If you want good teachers then you have to be willing to pay for them. There will always be some who will teach because they have a higher calling and pay does not matter. Unfortunately, the economic realities of today’s world mean that those teachers are becoming harder and harder to find. Good teachers need to be rewarded.
On the flip side, bad teachers need to be removed. I grew up in a home where the importance of unions was drilled into my head and I agree that unions serve an important role and are necessary. However, to protect incompetent teachers simply because they have paid their union dues does not set well with me and it should not set well with you. If, as I suggested, teacher salaries are raised to a competitive level, then so, to, should the expectations be raised. I do not believe in paying someone simply because they showed up to work. The future of our children is too important; it is morally unacceptable that their future be compromised because their teachers are incapable or unwilling to improve their skills.
COLLEGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
It is not necessary to attend college in order to succeed in life. That fallacy has been tossed about for far too long. Millions have succeeded in life without the aid of college. We will always need plumbers, firemen, electricians, truck drivers and police officers. They are honorable jobs, every bit as much as those jobs associated with a college degree.
What is more important, finding a job that pays well or finding a job that feeds your passion? And why do those two have to be mutually exclusive and why do they have to depend on a college education? Throughout history there are countless stories of people who have had nothing more than a will to succeed and the ability to reason who have achieved great things in life.
Taking on a mountain of debt just to receive a degree for the sole purpose of having a degree is lunacy. There are other options! I grew up in a household where it was accepted almost as the word of God that unless you had a college degree you could not succeed. What a bunch of hogwash!
Armed with three degrees and backed by forty-five years of work experience I can now say that true success comes from within; it is in knowing that you have given more than what was expected of you. It is in knowing that you have faced challenges and not broken but rather excelled because of them.
On the flip side, if a child does attend college then for the love of God, they need to pursue a degree that feeds their soul, that they are passionate about. If there is no passion then where will the joy come from during all of those years of working?
PARENTS NEED TO GET INVOLVED
I can tell you with all certainty that principals and teachers do not like to deal with parents who are not satisfied with the status quo. If you are the parent of a child who attends a school where sub-standard education is being taught then it is time for you to do two things:
1. Look in the mirror! If you have not done your job at home in making sure your child has a love of learning and a strong support system then you need read no further. The problem, and the solution, begins with you.
2. Demand that your child receives the education that they deserve. Go to school board meetings, get vocal, stay in close touch with teachers and administration and then do it all over again. You are the number one advocate for your child. Get busy!
Allow teachers to do their job and if they are not doing it then demand to know why. Education is a three-way street composed of student, parent and teacher. The first two are in your lap; the third you can influence.
Too many parents send their children off to school and wash their hands of the whole process. They do not supervise homework procedures, they do not encourage and help at home and then they are shocked when their child does poorly at school.
Encourage….Encourage….Encourage…..and then advocate like you are protecting your greatest treasure….because you are!
You have all heard of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Well, the education system in the United States is the definition of insanity. It simply is not working.
At one time the United States had the finest education system in the world. Now we don’t even crack the top ten. Again, I do not need to see that poll to know of its truth. All I need do is sit in a classroom for a day or have a conversation with several students out on the street.
I understand the nature of our world today. Many families need to have both parents working in order to pay the bills. Many families only have a single parent and that parent is stretched beyond their capabilities. Many school systems do not have the money to pay for quality teachers and many are suffering so many cutbacks that they can barely keep the doors open.
If we are to end the insanity then change needs to happen. Change needs to happen at home and change needs to happen in the schools and that change is the responsibility of every single person. The whining and complaining need to be replaced by positive action. The futures of our children and by extension the future of our nation depend upon it.
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
For other articles on education see the following:
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