Monday, May 30, 2011

A B C, 1 2 3

School will soon be ending for summer vacation and for about 10 weeks squillions of kids will be loafing around, pestering their parents to entertain them and helping major pharmaceutical companies boost sales of tension headache relief medicines.

It is time for me to comment on educational matters. I have taught for more years in three states than many kids can count up to. Many could not do the math to figure out the number, even if I gave them the year I started and they had to subtract using the current year, which many of them also do not know. By the way, it is 2011.

I have seen the education system in the US from the parent's side and the teacher's side. We don't have a perfect system or perfect educators or perfect parents.

As a parent you are stuck with your kid, so deal and become responsible. Spend time investing in Johnny's education. Monitor homework, get involved with something at the school and set a good example. Words are words, but kids respond to actions. No excuses- suck it up and get busy.

You don't have to be the volunteer gymnastics coach or sing Latin ditties in Advance Placement  classes. My college professor daughter said recently that one of her happiest Kindergarten memories was when I was posting notices on the PTA Bulletin Board in her school and I waved to her as her class walked by. She said it made her feel important that her Mom cared enough to volunteer a couple hours a month  at her school.

Fortunately, school districts aren't stuck with bad teachers unless they live in a state where tenure comes way too fast. Two or three years isn't enough time to judge the effectiveness and skill of a nascent educator. Many are still students- a policy I believe should be discontinued. 

I frequently help score essays teaching candidates write as part of the exams they must take during the certification process. Some of the responses we read are great and we are confident these adults will make wonderful teachers. But for many it is very clear that these people need to stay in school much longer or seek a new career path. So get at least a Master's Degree and put all your effort into learning your trade; don't try to get away with anything. It WILL come back to bite you.

If a state confers tenure on a teacher it should be after at least 5 years, but there should also be mandated continuing education requirements. These offerings should be something worthwhile. I have attended many wasted hours in useless seminars based on administrative politics rather than teaching skill enhancement. 

Care is needed not to link performance results with teaching ability. Special education is one area where this is necessary. 

So I decided to see how much my neighbor's kid has learned in 5th grade social studies this year. I know they study many aspects of our nation, one being states: their geographic, political and economic features.  Here is our conversation:

Mama: What did you learn about the states?

L'il Einstein: Everything- just ax (sic) me.

Mama: It will be my pleasure. Do you know the capitals of the states?

L.E.:I know 'em all.

Mama: If I name a state, can you tell me its capital?

L.E.:  Stump me, Mama- I mean ma'am. Make it hard.

Mama: Alright. What is the capital of Wyoming?

L.E.: Oh, you did pick a hard one. Do I get a mobile shout out?

Mama: No, dear, just do your best.

L.E.: Oh man, OK. Um... I gotta think...Ummmmmm. Hey- I got it! The capital of Wyoming is W!

Mama says. "No wonder the United States is out of the top 10 in world education rankings: 14th in reading, 25th in math, 17th in science.""