Sunday, September 26, 2010

NO child is unworthy

Waiting for Superman. a new movie/documentary about the lousy educational system awaiting our youth. I expect to see this movie Tuesday evening. However, having seen clips and listened to discussion, I feel even more impassioned than ever about the inequities of the educational system in America. I am so lucky to teach where I teach, and to teach what I teach (English as a second language). I am given the opportunity everyday to work with small groups of students, enhance their skills, encourage learning, be creative, and see that children, no matter their economic backgrounds, all share curiosity and a desire to learn. So, what is it that we do as adults to discourage that!? We put these children into unwelcoming environments, are told to teach by rote, forget creativity, teach as if all students learn the same way, "dumb down" programs when we think that this group of kids can't or isn't really interested in learning anyway, test them until they can't think outside the box, and discourage learning for sake of learning. What happened to the joy of discovery? Why should/do some students get better educations than others? When was it decided that teachers could no longer use the skills and passion that they had to foster a love of learning? Isn't it amazing, that when I was working in a school as a substitute teacher, I was brought into a 5th grade where the students were sitting on the desks, music was blaring, papers were flying and I felt like I was going to get eaten alive; and had I followed the "script" exactly, I would have. However, as I tried to follow the teachers' lesson plan for the day involving science, I realized that reading the material from the book was never going to engage these students. So I deviated by taking the information and turning it into an experiment which orally, visually,  and kinesthecially showed the information. Before I knew it, instead of a disruptive class, I had students all around me, listening to me use the vocabulary from their textbooks in conjunction with what they were seeing. They were actively engaged, asking and answering questions and more likely to have learned something that they will remember than if I had just read from the book. Interestingly, though, I was later told, that had I been observed, I would have been chastised for not following protocol which dictated holding the book like a bible, and reading directly from it, including the questions that were proposed in the margins. Did they really need a "teacher" to do that? How bored would you be? Every school has the potential to engage students, if they have engaging teachers. NO child is unworthy of an engaging teacher, a safe and welcoming school, and the ability to learn. I believe that it is time to be proactive and put our money at the forefront of education. Think of the benefits society will reap at the end. And maybe, just maybe, we will not only have a more productive society, but a happier one as well.

1 comment:

  1. Sharon,

    This is a powerful and heartfelt post. You are so right to say that it is the boredom and disengagement that effects the ability of children to learn. Your example of the lesson you changed and invigorated for the children that you taught is a good one and proves the point.. what America needs is more teachers like you who think the way you do and teach the way you teach and are not obsesed by protocol, rules or test results but by bringing out the potential of all their students.
    Keep up your good and important work.