Sunday, December 7, 2008

When A Problem Comes Along, You Must FIX IT

It's hard to argue against the fact that education is failing in the United States. This is a muli-dimensional argument that can run the from school funding to high stakes testing to curriculum choices to the attitudes of students and teachers, among many others. In the face of failure, many have started focusing in different directions, wanting school to be fun or kids to feel good about themselves. The reality is, we should take responsibility for the out dated system we have, stop making excuses and pointing fingers, and fix the problems in front of us. Why can't kids feel good about themselves because they achieved something, and why can't teachers expect more regardless of where they work and the population of their students?

Well, these issues are not easy to resolve, because it does matter what population of students you work with. But saying "if they come every day, my job is done," should be reason for a teacher to lose their job. You are there to teach, you're not a baby sitter, do your job. There, that's about as up front as I can say it. People put their children in private schools (which, in my opinion, are actually no better than public school, they just have a more involved population of parents and a higher socio-economic population as well), and home school their children, because they look at public education and say "I don't want my child there."

Now, we can either sit back and blame those people for leaving the system, or we can fix the system. Are private schools and home schools better than public schools? The answer is yes and no, but this post isn't about them, it's about public schools.

Teachers, first of all, are the professionals in the field of education, they're the ones who actually do the job. Forget the superintendents, leave them to their budgets, forget the "specialists" who have never spent a second with classroom teachers, and forget everything you learned from Dr. Wong's books, it's time for teachers to refocus themselves.

Good teaching comes from having a deep understanding of how to teach and why to teach it, which come from being taught in theory and method. Teachers should never dive into something because it's there. Are textbooks the best choice? How do you know? If you've never experienced anything else, how can you be sure? Why did you choose that book? Is there a better one? Are you sure your students enjoyed it or learned from it? How are you sure?

That's just a few questions teachers should be asking. Because after all, we can't worry about the attitudes of students if we don't take care of our business first and know our stuff. We can't worry about the parents who pull their kids out of our schools for whatever reason, because we've already failed them (or they just want to home school or pay for a school that is better for their child, which is every parents right, and no teacher should ever take that personally).

This post was mostly just speculation on this topic. I hope to post more in depth on this soon, including possible pathways to fix it.