Thursday, February 11, 2010

I've been thinking lately about public education's true purpose.

There seems to be a growing consensus supporting the need for a national curriculum. Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. Part of me is supportive, realizing the inequities which exist from school to school, and state to state. Children should be guaranteed comparable, viable access to knowledge, regardless of where they are schooled.

However, looking at the students in my classroom, I see a wide variation in abilities and interests. Should those come into play at all when planning a curriculum? I see the shift nationally for test/data driven instruction as an attempt to even out the playing field, but without consideration for the players themselves. Just as all players on the Little League team will not grow up to play in the Majors, my students will not all need the same skill set when they are adults. Without limiting their possibilties, we have to also acknowledge the discrepancies in innate abilities and work to maximize the potential of all learners.

Given a student driven curriculum is only one piece of the educational puzzle though. Isn't the socialization part of school just as important as the curriculum driven piece? Don't we have an inherent responsibility to teach children how to function in society as well?

As I look at my middle schoolers and picture them as adults in the workplace, I can fairly accurately predict which will be 'good' employees and which will struggle, floundering from one job to another, unable to meet the demands of their boss and the constraints of productive employment.

A student who is consistently tardy to school/class will likely be the same in the work place. The child who comes with no materials (despite the availability of those) will be the carpenter fired for showing up with no tools. Ones who cannot take a directive without a negative reaction will probably be the ones fired for insubordination.

Don't we as public educators, have a responsibility to also actively teach these life skills as well as the prescribed curriculum? How can we assure each child has the best opportunity to be successful in adulthood?


Di Di R. said...

Hello! I am a teacher ed student at the University of Memphis. My goal is to teach middle school Language Arts and Social Studies, and I hope to graduate in the spring of 2012. I am also a 38yo mom to five boys, ages 7 to 15, and one is a brain tumor patient at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital here in Memphis. Life is quite crazy in my world.

Your blog is terrific! After a particularly bad experience in one of my classes this week, I went "blog-hunting" for some inspiration from a seasoned middle-school teacher. I was looking for someone who would be honest, yet show they were determined to help their kids succeed. Your blog fits the bill nicely!

Thanks so much for blogging...I need to see the realities of teaching as I find myself constantly unsure about my choice to teach. Also, I love it when you tell what unique activity you have devised to help your kids. Your creativity and devotion to your purpose is motivating me, and I am now following your blog on Google reader.

Don't stop blogging!

-Di Di R.

cossondra said...

Thanks DiDi for your kind words! I try to be honest without being depressing :) Middle schoolers really ARE the coolest people on the planet in my book.

It must be quite difficult for you going to school full time with a child at St. Jude's. my thoughts and prayers are with you and your son.