The State of Education Today

Teachers are kept too busy doing mandated testing and assessing and being sure they don’t teach anything that isn’t listed in the Common Core Standards to be the kind of teachers I had growing up.

I come from a small town – population was about 10,000. My teachers knew me and my family. They could figure out by my answers during class whether I knew something or not. I remember one time trying to fool a teacher into thinking “I got it!” so she’d quit trying to teach a math concept to me. I put on the face I thought I wore when I understood the lesson, but I didn’t fool her for a minute. “Are you sure?” she asked. I nodded my head vigorously so we could please move onto something else. “Then tell it back to me,” she said. I heard myself meekly asking, “Could you explain it to me one more time?” The class snickered until she turned those teacher eyes towards them and asked if any of them wanted to explain it?  No one volunteered. She went on to explain that if Connie didn’t “get it”, no one else did. I guess I was her barometer of sorts. (I was blessed with a high IQ.) I didn’t know why at the time, but I did know learning came easy to me.

All my teachers knew all their students. They’d ask about your parents, your vacations, your pets, your siblings . . . they knew you and your family. They knew your learning style before learning styles became a popular buzzword. They had time to get to know you and time to teach you.

Now teachers are so mandated by the government and testing and retesting and teaching exactly what is in the Common Core Standards, and the Common Core Standards only! that they hardly know who they are anymore.

I’ve had a few principals who understood my methods. They knew what I was doing and why – usually it was those principals who taught similarly to the way I teach. I do assess. I take notes. I resent any time that is spent testing just to get a score for the government because it takes away from true teaching time.

I mentioned to a colleague yesterday about the new school website and something on it that was appealing. Had she seen it? No. She hadn’t had time to look at the website. That’s right. She just finished her first full week of school for this school year. She is expected to test, using an iPad, all the students in her room on Monday and Tuesday. I saw the email. I thanked God Almighty that I am not involved in that this year.

This year I’ve been deemed to be too sick physically to take part in the school day. I sit on the sidelines and cheer. I wish I was there to teach, but the days devoted solely to testing? I don’t miss them at all. I feel we are cheating our current generation of students by all the numbers we must reach with each of them, and the constant testing and retesting until we reach those magic numbers.

For me education is teaching a child how to learn. I am a Reading Specialist. My goal for each year was to teach each child all the various ways to figure out unknown words. If they left me being able to decode new words, I felt I had done my job. Some of the tests were timed tests that their teachers were giving. I was told by those teachers to practice, practice, practice! getting the children to read at a certain speed or getting the children to identify letters or sounds in a certain amount of time. I did teach them that, but I taught it to them by teaching them to read. We read many books in my classes. Some teachers still use one story per week and then wonder why children hate reading, I tried to use a new story daily, while also rereading previous books from time to time. One teacher told me she used the same book to teach fluency. By the time Friday rolled around, the children could read the book at the desired speed.  She insisted that meant that they had mastered fluency. I said, “No, they had mastered memorization.” I was not always popular with my co-workers because I don’t mince words and I don’t follow the pied piper. I’ve never regretted the way I taught. I saw so much success! Children and parents would tell me how much they appreciated my approach. My students learned.

That’s what teaching is for – to teach children how to learn. During the process, they pick up various facts and knowledge about so many things.

One of the requirements for teaching in this day and age is the use of technology. I spent time trying to decide which piece of technology to use weekly and it took away from time when I could have been analyzing how my students processed information. If there’s a video, I understand playing it. I understand interaction with some programs. I do not understand using technology in some shape or form just to be able to check off that technology was used this week. It was rationalized by saying we were trying to demonstrate the value of technology. We were bringing our children into the 21st century. I doubt we could keep today’s children away from technology. I don’t think they need to see me use an iPad to want to learn how to use one.

The State of Education today worries me. I see fewer children who delight in being educated. Gone are the days of fun lessons that children enjoyed while learning key concepts.

Teachers are forced to teach a certain way and then criticized when that way doesn’t work. I live in North Carolina. We got no raise again this year. We will each get a $750 bonus – before taxes. Between the low pay and the working conditions, I’m surprised we are able to find enough teachers to fill our classrooms. I heard one district is still seeking 100 teachers and school has already started.

The State of Education today worries me.

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