Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teaching (Part II)

I have always had a lot of respect for teachers mainly because I know I could not do the job. I simply do not have the patience to work with underperforming and behavioral problem kids. My wife is a teacher and I have come to respect the job she is doing every year. I hate it when people claim teaching is a safe job protected by unions and easy work because they are off 3 months out of the year. This is not entirely true. Most teachers do not belong to a union and most good teachers work many weeks out of the summer writing curriculum or even doing other jobs because they are so grossly underpaid and underappreciated. During the school year my wife leaves for work before 7am (5 minute bike ride) and does not get home to 6pm. She spends at least 3 to 4 hours every night grading papers and does the same on the weekends.

The past few years I started to volunteer in her classroom and tutor a few of her more advanced kids in math and science. It was at this point I realized how effective of a teacher she was and how dramatically teaching had changed since I was in second grade. I remember being restricted to my chair in all my classes. This is no longer the case. She keeps her kids on the move to keep them alert. Kids work on the floor and use the entire classroom. The key word here is work. As long as students work all the kids are allowed to have special assigned areas other than their desk.

In all my years of education I never remember being allowed to eat a snack or chew gum in the classroom. Her kids eat small snacks they bring in throughout the day. Again, this keeps them alert throughout the day. Kids that have attention deficit disorder can chew gum to help them concentrate. And I never remember having three recesses per day. The school gives each class three 15 minute breaks to go outside and blow off steam. Once again this helps to keep them alert throughout the day so they can retain information.

Back in my day kids with behavioral or learning issues were seldom removed from the class for any of length of time. Today, my wife works hard to get kids with learning and behavioral problems diagnosed to make sure they get the necessary care they need from specialists. She has dozens of volunteers working her classroom weekly to help give advanced and underachieving kids the special attention they need to improve. In other words, she gets families and the community involved in the educational process.

I have never seen anything like it, but she can keep an entire class of 22 students attentive all day long. It is simply amazing. And the end result is that all of her kids move to the next grade level having met or exceeded all curriculum expectations.

So how is it that our educational system is failing thousands of kids each year? Is my wife one of the few teachers that cares and reaches out to each individual kid to make sure they succeed? I don’t know, but she is grossly underpaid for what she does and this may force the better teachers out of the industry. Still, the one glaring thing that sticks out why schools are failing kids is standardized testing. Once that stops, kids will once again be able to succeed. They will learn other subjects, they will be graded on their entire year of work instead of on one day, they will retain more information, they will enjoy school more, advanced kids will not be bored and held back, underachieving kids will be identified and given the proper assistance, and so forth.

It should be pointed out the past few years my wife has been teaching in a rural school district. And she admits that the bureaucracy and red tape is not nearly as restrictive as her previous 22 years of teaching in a large city school district. In other words, teachers and kids are more likely to succeed in a rural environment. For instance, the rural school district places an equal emphasis on trade education and everyone in the school district from janitor to cafeteria staff to teachers to superintendent are treated as an equally important part of the educational system.

My Book: Is America Dying? (Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble)

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