No Child Left Behind? Please, That Ship Has Already Sunk

28 Sep

When I was growing up I dreamt of being either a Writer or a Teacher.  In my mind that was all there was to it, I knew that I would be one or the other.  I never wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer or an astronaut, only a writer or a teacher or some combination of the two.  My focus all through out school was to prep me for this direction, more emphasis on English and Language classes, honors history, Advanced Placement Government classes, when other students were excited that the hardest teacher in the school was retiring I was lamenting his loss because that meant I wouldn’t get the challenge of his class, his wealth of knowledge wouldn’t be passed on to my generation.  I however encountered on snag along the way in my goal – Standardized Testing.

Testing, the policy that ruined education.  I can say this because I was almost one of its victims.  While my test scores shined in the English and writing sections my Math scores were always lagging behind.  It was this deficit that almost cost me my diploma.  What was so wrong with just teaching?  What was the purpose of all these damn standardized tests anyways?  Originally, standardized testing was used primarily as a tool for teachers to help them determine class placement.  The scores from these tests were used to see which students needed extra help in certain areas so they could be grouped with like students meanwhile not holding back the children who had successfully masted the curriculum and would be detrimental to hold back.  Instead, it has become this very narrow-minded view of, not what children need to be helped, but rather which teachers need to be fired.

In the new documentary, American Teacher, the leaders of the nations two largest teachers unions lauded the film for bringing to light how very hard teachers work and how under appreciated and under paid they are, citing a 2006 National Education Association survey that found nearly 62% of teachers held second jobs and almost half leave the profession before their fifth year based largely on the salary.  However, according the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for a teacher, depending upon location, is between $47,000 and $52,000.  Now, I am a little perplexed by this number, you see, I make a whopping $31,000 a year (gross income of course as I am sure that is the figure that was used by the Labor and Stats people) and yet I have no need for a second job, I can pay my bills and still put money back in savings AND I contribute to an IRA and pay for half of my health coverage out of this money as well.  So, you tell me how someone who makes $16,000 more than me can complain about being under paid.  Truth be known, people don’t go into professions like teaching for the money, that’s like a missionary looking to gain fame by bringing to word of God to the savages.  If you are considering teaching to get wealthy, well, then I sure don’t want to teaching my child.

Teaching is passion, it’s a labor of love.  I wanted to be a teacher so I could impart wisdom and common sense to generations to come.  I wanted to teach so that when I was old and gray one of my students parents would come in and tell me, I had you when I was in ____ grade and was so excited when I found out little Timmy was going to  have you too.  I wanted to teach so I could earn an honest living while still doing something that I was passionate about, touching a life….making a difference.  Now-a-days that is not something you hear too much over all the crying and bellyaching about pay and testing scores.

Here’s an idea!  We are so gung ho for education reform, how about we actually TEACH our children something?  I know! What a SHOCKING concept isn’t it?  Do you want a generation of children who can think outside the box and make a difference in our world?  This is how you do it:

  1. Smaller Class Sizes:  According to the Department of Education, the student:teacher ratio in the United States runs around 16:1.  That means for each ONE teacher there are SIXTEEN students.  Now, we all know these numbers are a skewed, I myself as a preschool teacher was only legally allowed to have for my age group was 15:1 (which was ridiculous for 3 year olds) and I consistently had over 20 every day.  Would this smaller class size mean more teachers?  Sure, but it also means that teacher has more time to devote to her students which means more one on one instruction and a teacher that is better equipped to notice warning signs of problems in other areas of a student’s life.
  2. Return Standardized Testing to What it Was Intended For:  There is absolutely no reason that any child should be denied the honor and privilege of walking across the stage with their classmates and taking that diploma in their hand, especially if the reason is a failing test score!  Testing should be used how it was meant to be used, to aid teachers in the placement of a student and to monitor progress.  However, with testing, attendance and effort should be taken into consideration as well when considering advancement.
  3. Education is not just the 3 R’s:  While the main focus should be on the basic skills, children need the opportunity to explore creativity.  Art and music classes are just as vital to an education as reading and math are.  Return art and music into the schools, without them these students have nothing to write about.
  4. There is More to Life Than Money!:  Quit being greedy already, it’s so unattractive.  Instead of instilling in our children a desire for more and more material possessions how about we teach them compassion and empathy.  We should not be producing a generation of Donald Trumps, we should want our children to worry more about making an impact in society than their pocketbooks.  Teach them that they should grow up to want to be anything they want to be but not because it will bring them wealth or fame but because it will make their world a better place.
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