Letting teachers teach again, and letting the next generation of children get the education that has been stolen from the current generation, is clearly the passion and driving force for this blog. As often as I can, I include great stories from teachers all around the nation – in the hope that finally we will be able to get legislators and parents to wake up and demand that we fix all the damage career DoE bureaucrats have done to our schools.
There is nothing we as teachers can do that is more valuable and more important to our children than to let teacher voices be heard. Those voices must be heard above the din of those with absolutely no understanding of what happens in our classrooms, yet who yell out the simplistic mantra that all the problems in education are due to bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers. That mantra is destroying any chance to fix the real issues.
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As I present teacher views, I have discovered a few other bloggers who share the same passion. These bloggers are just as determined to present the real issues, with reason and persuasion, and not by matching the harsh stridency of those outside the classroom. At the top of this list for me is an ex-teacher, current college professor, and blogger about education for the Huffington Post, M. Shannon Hernandez. I came across her just six months ago, and immediately discovered we had in common something Midgley, Feldlaufer and Eccles cited 25 years ago as more important to effective teaching than all the training, experience, funding, meetings, and wasted PDPs combined – a passion for teaching, and the ability to engage children. (Student/Teacher Relations and Attitudes towards Mathematics Before and After the Transition to Junior High School. Carol Midgley, Harriett Feldhaufer and Jacqueline Eccles, 1989)
And then came the bonus – Shannon also shared the same passion for letting teachers be heard! An email I sent when complaining about bureaucrats outside the classroom who believe they know far more about education than those inside the classroom led to a classic reply from her, one I could have written! – “Seriously, teachers are sick and tired of being told their voices don’t matter. FACT. They are happy someone is actually speaking up about what is going on in the education world. FACT. We have lots more “work” to do.”
Below is a piece by Shannon that looks at the impact of so many inept mandates from Career DoE bureaucrats that undermine education. While these bureaucrats always give lip service to the need for diversified teaching and meeting the needs of a wide range of child interests and abilities, these mandates force more and more “one-size-fits-all” teaching. The term “College and Career Ready” is used as an excuse to justify a wide range of programs. Yet, the implementation of these programs largely ignores the needs of the “career” side of that misused phrase. It should be:
Vocational school children who want a career in plumbing, cosmetology, carpentry or dental assisting are held to the same exact testing requirements (despite being in academics just every other week when they are not in their career shop, and despite not intending to go to a four-year college) as a student targeting an Ivy League college.
It’s one-size-fits-all. The same dumbed-down education focused on passing a test is imposed on a future rocket scientist, a future plumber, a future Maya Angelou, or a future Julia Roberts. All get the same set of clothes – one designed by a career DoE bureaucrat who has not been in a classroom for years, if at all.
Shannon Hernandez is a college professor, and ex-middle school teacher,
a blogger on education for the Huffington Post, and the nationally
acclaimed author of “Breaking the Silence: My Final 40 Days as
a public school teacher.” Please visit her at www.myfinal40days.com
The Miseducation of the Masses
by M. Shannon Hernandez
As millions students sit in classrooms across this country, they face a new degree of anxiety represented by the vast amount of pressure from the high stakes testing that awaits them. As a former public school teacher, and now professor and education activist, I have been deeply struck by the enigma this poses, especially when one considers that the end result of this testing is tied to an outcome that is likely not in the cards for many of our students: matriculation at a four year college or university. This, of course, raises the much larger question: Why do we continue to insist on educational standards that do not meet the needs of the vast majority of students who will be seeking employment, rather than advanced degrees?
This is especially important when one examines the language often used to push the agenda of so-called education reform. The phrase, “college and career ready”, for example, is one that continues to buzz around in education policy. Achieve, Inc., a company who helped create the Common Core State Standards, coined it, and this wording is designed to prompt schools to focus on the outcomes of education, rather than the journey of learning.
College and career ready is an understandable effort to hold everyone to high standards. The basic philosophy is that instruction is rooted in skills, which are necessary and important for success in college, as well as in working-class jobs.
But as our nation’s children report to classes, most will spend more days preparing for tests and assessments, rather than developing the skills and content knowledge to be truly career-ready. Their recess and physical education classes, that once offered chances of learning positive social interaction, teamwork, and healthy habits, will be reduced — drastically — so that they can spend more time sitting in a desk, preparing for a test. And music and art and theatre and photography? Our students will be lucky if those classes are even offered, due to budget cuts and an increased focus on reading, and math, and science.
I believe reading, math, science, and history are important. But I also believe that our students deserve to explore other interests that can often lead to the mastery of skills they don’t even realize they need yet. If we are going to focus on educating the whole child, then the education needs to be well-rounded. Electives such as home economics, culinary arts, health, foreign language, creative writing, speech, study skills, keyboarding, pottery, etc. must be offered to our students throughout their years of public education. They must have the opportunity to interact with other students, in various social situations, and express themselves creatively. They must be able to explore personal interests and be actively part of their own learning.
Learning and education are a process. Think of them as a journey — a journey that takes many, many years, beyond our formal schooling. Developing life-long learners should be one of the main focuses in classrooms across this country. Teachers know this — we go into education and teaching because we love learning, and we love the process of discovery. It is our hope to inspire these qualities in our students. However, with a main emphasis on “college and career readiness” and standardized testing, teachers are torn between doing what is right for our students, and keeping our jobs, which are now heavily dependent upon student test scores.
And what about the students who will not go to college (for various reasons) or have no desire to attend college? The biggest problem with “college and career readiness” is that the focus is on college, and not so much on the career. We need citizens who are mechanics, plumbers, electricians, beauticians, etc., none of which require traditional college degrees. What happened to offering these types of classes, in our high schools, or partnering with companies who offer internships, so that our students can ready themselves for careers of this nature?
We are doing a huge disservice to the education of our nation’s children, when the focus must be placed on how to take tests and how to score well on them, rather than on developing skills and deep content knowledge in a variety of subjects, thus sparking curiosity and a passion for learning. Students should be provided with a range of course offerings and opportunities which help to develop those skills that will allow them to succeed, no matter which path they choose. A true college and career ready path involves social interaction, group work, exploration of interests, and real-world problem solving, rather than filling in bubbles on test sheets–unless the students are interested in careers as professional test takers.
Shannon Hernandez, M. Ed.
Author | Education Activist & Speaker | Professor
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