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Why Won't You Teach in the Public Schools Anymore? Why Won't You Teach in the Public Schools Anymore?
by Leah Sellers
2013-05-13 11:11:02
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Good Question.  One to which I have Given years of Thought and initial Struggle.  Struggle ?  Yes, Struggle.  Because I sought to Work within the ever Re-gressive and Di-gressive Public School System of Texas, while attempting to stave the Tide of Wrong-headed Decisions demanded of Teachers and Administrators for several years before tiring of a Losing Game.

The first big mistake the Public School Systems made was allowing the intrusive Private Enterprise practice of State and National Testing, which earns a handful of Folks who own the Testing Companies and Create and Grade the Tests several million dollars a year.  Ching !  Ching !  

I warned my high school principal at the time against them, especially after being approached by one of the company’s Test Salesmen.  He offered to pay me money for helping to bring the teachers and administrators along and on board to the Idea of how Grand the State Test would be for Us all.  That it would improve Teacher/Student Accountability, and lead to the overall improvement of everyone’s performance.

I rejected his offering of making extra money touting something I was diametrically opposed to.  I told the Testing Salesman and my high school Principal that the State and National Tests would begin to take over every school’s programs and teaching methodologies and modalities, because the Greedy Need for making even more money for the Companies spitting them out would breed the Need for even more tests.  And that would lead to Teachers losing control over their classrooms, and Administrators losing control over their schools.  Which would eventually lead to an overall breakdown of the Public School System in its entirety.

I knew that Fear of the Test would effect/affect everyone’s ultimate outlook and responses to outcomes.  Just as I knew that all Students develop differently, and because of that inescapable Fact should have a variety of Teacher Created Ways that Teachers can Test and Evaluate their Knowledge Bases of Materials covered and learned.

I was one of those Teachers who never gave multiple-choice (guess) tests.  My students had to write out, in grammatically correct short sentences and essays the answers to their test questions.  I believed in having them use the Language and Critical Thinking Skills I was having them Work with every day in class.  State and National Tests are primarily multiple-choice (guess) regurgitation troughs, and have one large essay tacked onto the end.

I Believe in having the class Read the classroom stories aloud in class.  When called upon, each student would read three to four paragraphs of the story aloud, when called upon, and then we would all discuss what we had gotten out of what had just been read.  We would discuss the characters and literary methodologies being used as we read.  We would trace the Cause(s), Effect(s), and Consequence(s) occurring throughout the literature.  We would discuss the historical context of the story.  We would discuss the ethical approaches of the protagonists and antagonists within the work.  We would discuss the meanings and usages of: Accountability, Responsibility, Courage, Compassion, Honor, Trustworthiness, Honesty, Courtesy, Hospitality, Patience, Virtue, Integrity, Thoughtfulness and Caring toward Others…etc..

We would discuss and explore the Art and Architecture of the Historical time period of the literary work.  We would discuss the Scientific and Technological discoveries being made during the period of time the literary piece had been written, and then I would have my students do specialized projects on the Writers, Poets, Inventors and Inventions, Artists, Architects, Mathematicians, Scientists, Musicians, Governmental Leaders…etc., to be presented to the class in the form of a ten minute Speech and Visual/Audio presentation created and prepared by themselves, and occasionally within small groups.

I greeted each and every one of my students at the door each and every day.  When they entered my room, they were to sit down and get started immediately to work on the Quote from a famous Philosopher from Everywhere around the World that I had previously written upon the board.  I would deliberately misspell words and have grammatical errors for them to correct as well.  After hand writing the corrected Quote, they had to create three complex or compound sentences explaining what the Quote meant to them.  That was my students classroom warm-up each and every day.

I would use a movie (already pre-approved by the school Administrators and the Librarian) to back up certain novels or short stories we were working on, and have them pay attention to the use of lighting, dialogue, costume, set design, and character actions.  I would then use that same movie during their test on the novel or short story, and freeze frame certain prearranged places within the film for them to write about various previously discussed film methodologies or story developments, characterizations or literary methodologies during that segment.

During Creative Writing Time or Testing, I would always introduce my students to various classical composers and their instrumental music from around the world.  I would always have an extra-credit question regarding the composer and the piece being played during Testing Times.  However, I created the Tests, because I knew what I wanted my students to Learn.  What I Hoped that they would carry with them interactively throughout their lives.

Then once a month, we would have Music Day, in which they would bring Music of their choice based upon a predetermined topic or theme, and all of us would critique the music.  The students would have to write down the individual performers or groups name, the title of the song being performed, list four of the instruments they heard being used within the music, write complete sentences about what the theme/content of the song was about, write complete sentences about how the song made them feel or what it made them think about and why, explain what colors the song evoked for them and why, explain whether or not they would recommend the song to anyone else for their listening pleasure and why or why not.

Each student had three minutes to play their song, and everyone had exactly five minutes from the music’s beginning to end to complete their critique before we moved on to the next student’s song.

Then came the State and National Tests, and the heavy-handed, fear laden Authoritarian demands of the Test, for the Test’s sake (not the Students or Teachers sakes), and I no longer wished to Teach English within the Public Schools.

When teaching troubled youth in Middle School later on under an added certification of Special Education, I found myself swimming against the current of popular opinion again.  I would not allow my students to use calculators while doing their Math problems.  I expected them to use their Brain alone, and show me, on paper, how they solved their math problems.  I do not believe that students should be allowed to use calculators until they get into calculus or trigonometry.

As for computer work.  Yes, I taught them how to use the computer in our computer class, but when they had lengthy papers to do, I had them write them out by hand first and then work with them on the computer.

It is my firm belief that we are dumbing down our children, because we are making them dependent upon Machines, which are merely Tools, and not disciplining them to use their Gray Matter.  There is a physiological, Body Memory connection that our Children are being allowed to by-pass, and it is hindering their overall abilities to process, integrate and retain knowledge more effectively.

We should teach them to Read, and then have them Do it, in class and at home.  We should Teach them to Write, and then have them do it, by hand, in class and at home.  We should teach them to work math problems, without calculators - without Machines, and then we should have them work them out by hand, step-by-step, in class and at home.  

There is a fundamental Mind-Body Connection that must be kept in tact, which allows for and improves Skills and Memory Retention of materials being taught and processed. Then we can move onto machines - computers, calculators and other Tool-like things.

Give the Classrooms back to their Teachers and Schools back to their Principals.  Let Teachers make their own Tests.  They know what their Children need to know.  Have the Schools set up Methodologies of Teacher/Student Accountability of their own.

Then have them take a major homogenized, cookie-cutter State Test (if you must) before they graduate from high school.

While Walking around in Everyone Elses’ Shoes, we must also remember that not just One Size fits all.  And that the Acknowledgment of that Fact is part of what made the American Public School system such a tremendous success in the past.

 


     
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