0005: We don’t need a tune-up— we need a brand new car
In talking with teachers, administrators, and especially janitors (who hear and see all) the consensus is that the system is broken. I’m not hearing much positive talk; only cynical, false positive talk. Everyone is overwhelmed. We have this problem of motivating and educating a mass of people, but no one is trusted to do it. Building administrators are not trusted by district administrators; teachers are not trusted by building admins; students aren’t trusted. And, the lack of trust goes back to the top. Rather than working as a team toward the well-being of those who are forced into the leviathan that is public education, the body is fighting and destroying itself. Teachers want to leave, so do students, and I’ve rarely met a principal who hasn’t been beat down a bit. Education seems to lack altruism. I don’t know if that’s the way to put. I guess I perceive(d) public education to be a system designed to help learners become fully productive members of society. But, I see kids leave semi-literate and disheartened. They’re criminalized for not sitting down and paying attention to the boring teacher. The boring teacher is demonized for not inspiring bored, understimulated children with a curriculum and methodology that is 200+ years old. Principals are silently criticized by teachers for not trusting them to be professionals. The cycle is endless, and there is no team. Bureaucracy does not build teams; it makes them impossible to exist. And, it certainly does nothing for communication. Information, excrement, and misunderstanding all roll downhill.
So what would make it better? What does an effective classroom look like? I’ve been in some. I’ve taught some. The best have had an element of technology, and most important students were able to openly interact with each other and with me. Seemingly, the more freedom students are given, the better the class environment. And, the fewer discipline problems. But, when students are treated like numbers and criminals the problems escalate. Problems with behavior, learning, teacher motivation, and so forth. I spoke to a student today who moved from another district. Her school was a violent place with poor academics, but she was in honor classes. Small classes homogeneously grouped by academic ability. She said she always felt challenged, and everyone was focused. Everyone was challenged. She was completely separate from the regular student population. She went to classes with the same small group. They worked constantly as a team, and interacted with their teachers as equals not subordinates. They collaborated. But, is this only possible with small groups of “academically gifted” children. My first year of teaching was in a difficult school that had become the dumping ground for kids who just couldn’t measure up academically or behaviorally. Many of them had criminal records (these were eighth graders), and had established patterns of failure. Within that group I had several small groups of remedial algebra students who were wonderful. They were the “worst kids” in the school, and had records to back those reputations up. The classes were small though. We interacted as peers. It took a few weeks for them to become comfortable with a little freedom, but after we became partners, and no longer enemies, we made great strides. Equally, I’ve had some big classes that functioned the same way. The common denominator was the trust I had in the students. They equally trusted me. I tried to be honest and respectful, and human. If I made a mistake, I apologized. Thinking back, only one of classes had a lot of technology. A few of those classes didn’t even have dry erase boards, just chalkboards. The schools have all been in high poverty areas, some rural and some urban. School should possess elements of freedom, humanity, and relevant material infused into whatever is being learned. And, that should be widespread. It seems that to every one progressive and comfortable teacher there is at least five who are at their wits end. What can be done to help teachers and administrators become more comfortable in there roles? Would schools function better democratically, with every participant as a stakeholder? Could bureaucracy be eliminated or lessened in school districts?
- educatedtodeath posted this