There are not enough words to say about a system that says it’s trying to fix education, only to perpetuate the very problems it has set out to solve. Of course, before we can talk about what it means to “fix education” (especially for kids who are already disadvantaged), you must understand what it means to provide an education in the first place.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “educate” as “developing skills, knowledge and character (especially within a formal school environment)”. If this is the definition of what it means to educate, how does our current system measure up?
We can’t talk about how the current system of education measures up without thinking about our own experiences. You might be saying “When I was a kid, we were taught explicit character education alongside our multiplication facts. We wrote in cursive to develop fine motor skills and we played outside for recess.” If you are thinking these things, you might feel like your educational experience was pretty standard and how things in schools remain today. The world, however, has changed since those of us 24 years and older were in elementary, middle and even high school. Even though we still feel young, schools are changing. Schools (and the adults that run them) have very different ideas about what it means to educate today (for better and/or worse in many cases). People who work with children in schools today are worried about test scores, data, growth and performance in ways that would mystify many of us that came of age in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. (Seriously: stop and google “Pre-K is the new kindergarten”)
Let me give you an example: When I was a kid at all grade levels, we had outdoors time (called “recess”) at least once a day. This was a time when kids ran around or at least freely socialized with each other and adults supervised but didn’t actively interrupt us unless there was a safety concern. Nowadays, recess is a negotiable thing for students. In fact, the school I currently teach at uses recess as a consequence. If the students are too loud at the lunch table, there is no recess. Currently, we’re on a three month streak of having no recess.
Recess might seem silly but kids really need that time to play, be loud, and socialize in ways that adults don’t always dictate. My current school starts at 7:15 am and goes until 2:55 pm. The building has no windows and for the entire day, students are mostly sitting in a desk. Students DO take P.E. daily, but again that is time dictated by adults and only with students in their assigned class and grade. Recess also gives kids a time to let off energy and be more prepared to sit down and learn later.
To me, recess is a RIGHT, not something to be wielded as punishment for months on end for every single kid in the grade (seriously, just punish the ones who act up)! Having recess shows that we as educators, parents, administrators and everyone else that cares about children, care to see our kids developing in the less (standardized testable) measurable ways. It shows that we understand that all humans need fresh air, social time and most importantly: A BREAK! My adult brain can’t even handle sitting and working for 6 hours a day with little else going on, so why would a child be able to do it?
This post is just Part 1 of many to come about my experiences as a first year teacher. Stay tuned!