Monday, January 28, 2008

Many Children Being Left Behind

Last week I was helping Stella with her homework and saw that she was studying Islam in her Social Studies class. "Well, that's a good idea," I thought to myself, "We never studied that when I was in 7th grade." I talked to her about my Muslim students and how kind they always are to her and how they often want to use my office for their prayers because it faces East.

I had talked to her Social Studies teacher in the past about what I do and how I often have students from all over the world who would love the opportunity to come to a classroom and talk about their culture to American students. I also know how busy teachers are so I emailed her to jog her memory and to offer to bring a Muslim student to Stella's class to talk to the kids and answer questions. In my opinion, having a person there, in the classroom, to answer questions and discuss a topic reinforces the learning experience in a way that reading or watching a video just can't come close to. So I was a little irritated, or maybe just disappointed, when she emailed me back to say that they were too busy to make time for a visitor.

This is a big part of what's wrong with our education system right now. Students don't have time for their studies to be meaningful or enriched. The emphasis on testing has ruined every opportunity for lasting education. It's just on to the next topic and QUICKLY, because you've got to cram in everything that could be covered in the benchmark tests. I know from my experience teaching in a private school that in-person guest lecturers or field trips were the BEST ways of making a topic come alive for the students. It just goes to show that Stella's teacher wasn't thinking of how to best help her students LEARN (a subject that can always be studied more in depth). She was probably thinking how to best help her students KNOW (what is covered on a benchmark test). That's the difference. How frustrating! No wonder kids hate school!

What's the point of having a test if the topic isn't even covered in depth? I'm just saddened and angered by the whole thing. I wish I had the time and resources to just home school.


Stephanie said...

Amen. Except for the home schooling part. (I am just one of those who believes the collective expertise of the teachers in schools (despite their busy schedules and excuses) far out weigh my own limited knowlede in subjects like math, especially.)

On the other hand, I am really glad they send out those emails and study guides. I always print them out and add a bunch of stuff to them that I find on wikipedia!

I think it is so cool that you are surrounded my so many people from all over. Maybe Stella can come with you to work one day and have lunch with one of the muslims who would be willing to share some more information about the religion and culture. I was about her age when my mom dated an Iranian and our circle of friends were 90% Persians (or Iranian, if one prefers.)

ANd I agree 100% with how bad it's gotten with the teachers having to "teach to the test" and all the teachers I know complain and don't like it any better.

Stephanie said...

I should add, that the real reason I couldn't homeschool is because I don't have my act together enough to be organized and disciplined enough to do it. I would be all, "Today is ART CLASS! YAY!"

Alannah said...

I don't mean to come off like I'm blaming the teacher. Unfortunately, the teachers are just as much victims in this stupid system as the students are. They can only teach what the district deems necessary.

It just really seemed like a lost opportunity for a cool experience in the classroom. Can you imagine how much GOOD can be done by allowing people of different cultures and religions to sit in the same room and look each other in the eye and TALK to each other??

I'm impressed that you supplement the boys' studies with extra information from Wikipedia!

If I homeschooled, every day would be a field trip (to the bookstore!).

Stephanie said...

I agree completely that there was a missed opportunity. And part of me secretly suspects that the teacher would have welcomed and embraced the opportunity to have a guest speaker, but had to weigh that against the potential Freak Out that may have resulted from skittish parents of some of the students.

And I know someone who home schools. And they go on A LOT of field trips, man.

Alannah said...

Hmm, that's an angle I hadn't thought of...but of course it makes sense.

AND SPEAKING OF FREAK OUTS AT MCNAIR MIDDLE SCHOOL - did you hear the rumor about the kid today getting caught w/ cocaine, syringes and a homemade hand grenade in his backpack? I really want to know the true story. I've been walking around all night in shock.

Stephanie said...

WHAT THE???!! No I haven't heard about that. Now, THAT would warrant Freak Out.