The Frustrated Teacher Series Part 1-Where’s Recess?

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!

 

The Truth about Kpop-Percieved Innocence and Such

Alright here it is: I’ve been a Kpop fan since late 2008. Yes, that was 8 years ago (long before Gangnam Style appeared on the scene. I was a Freshman in college at the time and just starting to discover the awesomeness of YouTube. One day, my friend and I stumbled across the song “Mirotic” by top boy band at the time DBSK. For some reason, it took one viewing of that music video for me to want to know what Kpop was all about and ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out the global sensation that is Kpop.

 

Now during my time as a Kpop fan, I’ve seen a lot. Fans of Kpop are known to be a little crazy (to say the least). From new school Koreaboos to old school Sasaeng fans I know very well how misguided, stubborn and persistently blind Kpop fans can be. After living in Korea, I can no longer sugarcoat the effects that Kpop has on kids in Korea (especially young girls). Keep that in mind as you read:

Kpop can be polarizing to foreign people who make the journey to live and work in South Korea. Here is this mass produced, seemingly innocent, group dominated music genre that plays everywhere you may go in Korea. Kpop idols start training at a young age, and during their popular years, they work their behinds off to be “successful” (which doesn’t necessarily mean rich). These idols have to withstand grueling diets and extreme schedules to make it in the Kpop world. If there is even one negative moment, or one scandal, it can be career ending (thanks to those crazy fans I mentioned before). For many foreigners, the hype that seems to follow Kpop seems foolish.

Of course, there are the foreigners who are not only fans, but believe that Kpop is somehow the innocent and perfect choice of the musical world. They believe that Kpop is the very way music should be done. They also believe that Kpop is not as violent and sexually explicit as western music.

So is it true? After being a long term Kpop fan and teaching in Korea for a year and a half, would I say that Kpop is as innocent as some believe?

Well….

Here’s my honest answer: Kpop is full of sex, but it isn’t presented in the same way that we are used to seeing in western music. Kpop girl groups still dress in sexy outfits and they still do sexy dances. I’ve found, however, that since Korean women are not as curvy as the likes of Nicki Minaj, they tend to get a pass on their sexy dancing and skimpy outfits. Kpop male groups still thrust their pelvises harder than Michael Jackson, but because they aren’t considered “thuggish” or “too aggressive”, they also get the Kpop Innocent Pass.

The funny thing is, Kpop songs tend to be full of sexual innuendos and it only takes a look at the English translations of some songs to see it. In recent years, there has been a rise in “sexy” concept music videos where seemingly innocent girl groups have changed their images to become more sexy.

While we can argue that because Kpop doesn’t blatantly discuss sex or violence, it is indeed more innocent than western music, you have to remember who the main consumers of Kpop truly are: My sixth grade female students and the millions of kids just like them in Korea. In Korea, Kpop is kids’ and teens’ music. These kids have no concept of western music’s concepts of sexuality and only see what is presented to them by their favorite girl and guy groups in their home country. As much as I would like to say Kpop is innocent, I can’t. The first time I had to turn off a Sistar video in my upper level afterschool English class for being too damn sexy, I knew I could never look at Kpop the same again.

When you see Kpop through the eyes of young people who are still trying to figure out their place in their society (and what loving, sexuality, and dating will mean to them), you realize that Kpop is just as powerful as the western music we listen to and that our western opinions over its innocence are pretty much pointless. What matter most are the opinions of the parents and adults in Korea who are attempting to guide their kids through the process of consuming media and growing up into Korean citizens.

 

 

Sit down with a teen/tween (and some adults too) in your life and watch a couple of episodes of Teen Mom 2

This post probably sounds silly. You’re probably thinking “Why would I ever watch that show? It just glorifies teen motherhood and made celebrities out of a few young women for having kids before they were prepared to,”.

Well, you’re right! The 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom franchise that has been produced by MTV for more than 5 years now HAS indeed created celebrities out of young, mostly white women for having children when they were still children themselves. This, however, does not mean you can’t use this show as an educational tool.

I’ve watched the recent season of Teen Mom 2 online mostly and with every single episode I watched I kept thinking “My GOD how could anyone watching this want to get pregnant or put themselves in any of these situations?!” I’m 25 years old and some of the things these young women are dealing with (for instance, being married and divorced twice, all while raising three kids and struggling with depression in her early 20’s) scare me!

Take some time to sit down with a teen/tween or even a young adult in your life and really analyze one of these episodes. Look at the problems these young women are dealing with and really, REALLY discuss why they are problems and how they could be avoided!  Even the mother who is doing the best on the show at any given time is probably having “baby daddy drama”, whether it’s about custody arrangement or child support.

My main point is this: Teem Mom and 16 and Pregnant can illustrate something a lot of teen don’t really think about- the very, very, very, very long term consequences of our actions. These young women participating in these shows have no idea that parenthood is a LIFETIME commitment and so is the person you choose to have a baby with, whether you stay with them romantically or not.

I can’t say that simply watching Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant can completely convince young people to not have sex or at least not have children before they are good and ready, but I think the shows can concretely illustrate the complexities and consequences of choices and relationships. We’re always talking to kids about sex, and less often relationships, but this show can help a young person really see how different choices can play out across time.

If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to just watch an episode of one of these shows and at the end, try naming two or three things you learned from the episode and think if you would have liked to have learned those things when you were a teenager.  If your answer is yes, which I really think it will be, you’ll see my point.