Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Maybe it is the time of the year, maybe I am getting old.... but I feel a sense of discouragement and dismay at the tide of education today. It seems we've made a paradigm shift, or several of them, in the time I have been teaching.

Some of the changes have come from above, forced down upon us - increased accountability in the form of standardized testing and a uniform curriculum. Those issues are beyond our local control and have been debated in the greater educational arena to the point I am not sure I have much to add.

The bigger paradigm shift I see is the school culture/climate change. We've become so dictated by fear we no longer create the culture which is conducive to learning that once seemed the norm in schools.

Dress codes are not enforced. Rules in general have become more lax. Students seem to have more say in the social mores of the school community. On the one hand, it is important to allow students the opportunity to make decisions that impact themselves. It is a life's lesson to create rules and consequences. But as the majority starts to shift from those truly interested in education, to those more interested in finding ways to be a catalyst for chaos, I fear our schools are changing, swinging so far from an 'adult-ruled' society to one run by students with an agenda not guided by rationale and a drive for learning, that we have lost the true purpose of a public education in the process.

Students get in trouble in one school so they are booted to another. Students don't like one classroom teacher's rules so they change their schedule. Students choose not to be learners, so we have no choice but to allow them to wander that path, dragging others along behind them. Classroom teachers' hands are tied when it comes to discipline and enforcing consequences. Yet, our worth is judged by the achievement of students in our classes.

If you want to judge my worth by the productivity of my last year's students, then allow me to autonomy to create a learning environment conducive to actual learning.

I don't have the answers. But I do know what we are doing, where we are heading, gets further and further from a true education with each passing day.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I retire in 6 years and look forward to it. I used to have so much passion, but now I'm trudging along following the pacing guide with very little creativity. Any suggestions out there?

Cathy said...

The "tone" for school and system-wide climate is first set by the leadership of the school or division. If the principal or superintendent is "afraid" of the parents (who are usually afraid of the kids), then we usually end up with a student-run school. I am so thankful that I have a principal who has made it very clear to parents that he is in charge in the school and that he expects the teachers to be in charge in the classroom. It is not a "power" thing--it's just that we have serious business to do and we expect our students to get down to it. I admire this principal because he is not afraid to let those teachers who aren't pulling their weight know it--but he also makes resources and assistance readily available to any who want it. By developing teacher leaders in the building, those expectations are carried through the building by the ones in the trenches--we the teachers. And the students have responded well to the structure and the opportunities he has provided.
I have about six years left to go until I could retire--luckily, I'm still having too much fun and am enjoying the myriad of intellectual challenges that I get to work through.

Love your blog--

cossondra said...

Thanks Cathy. You are right that the school leadership sets the tone. I am hoping we will be addressing these very issues in our School Improvement Team meeting this afternoon. Wish me luck!