Tuesday, June 11, 2013

See You at the Movies

Yesterday my daughter watched five movies at school. Five.  She is a GT student in the sixth grade in Howard County. Four of the movies were educational, and they were required to do worksheets while watching them. The fifth was Chicken Run, which was shown at lunch.

I have read various complaints online about how the end of the year at school amounts to "babysitting."  I have thought a lot about this. As a teacher and a parent, I wonder how it has come to be like this.

Since the advent of No Child Left Behind, the pressure put on teachers to get results on high stakes standardized testing has been immense. Every year more emphasis is placed on test results, and less time is left for creative teaching. More paperwork, more data, less teaching. Teachers are belittled, interfered with, condescended to, and judged by people who know absolutely nothing about education.

So, once the testing and assessments are over for the year, what's left?

I would love to see experiential, hands-on learning activities. It would make the end of the year something to look forward to. And kids would carry those memories through the summer, because multi-sensory experiences are the ones you remember. But, if you don't encourage teachers to work like this, how can you expect that result? Our system is not set up to reward teachers for creativity.

If you don't foster it, if you don't reward it, it won't happen.  Look at health care, where the rewards have been based on doing more billable procedures, rather than patient interaction and wellness. You get what you reward.  By this time in the year, teachers are completely wrung out from jumping through all of the administrative hoops they are required to complete.

I would also love to see activities that encourage kids to make the most of their summers. It's great that the library comes in to promote the summer reading program. So, what else could be done to get kids thinking about making interesting connections during the summer? Teachers could help students begin a journal, create their own blog or website, design a building project or write a proposal for an environmental project. I can imagine ways to kick-start long-term activities in math, science, music composition, art, service, language arts, foreign language...

Just one thing: there probably are some teachers out there doing this. Despite rigid requirements, pressure to teach to the test, humiliating rubrics for evaluation, there are some teachers who are putting it all on the line for their students. I know because I have worked with them, and I am married to one. The bad news is that our system is set up to chew them up and spit them out.

Teachers want to teach. They want to make those connections and share their talents to help students. The more they care, the more likely they are to burn out. And that's what movies are for at the end of year, folks.

When do we stand up and say "No more" ?


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