A Few Educational Experiences I Wish My Kids Didn’t Have – Now

The Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson is one of my favorite blogs to read. He’s done it again (although I somehow missed this when it was first published.) 15 Educational Experiences My Granddaughter Won’t Have is an amusing list of changes that need to happen to education. Doug is hoping his new granddaughter won’t experience them.

I don’t disagree with any of them. They are spot on: no textbooks, real-time communication, personally differentiated curriculum, no desk time in rows, worksheets, standardized tests, etc.

I just wish we didn’t need to wait so long. My kids are in school now.Here are some things I’ve seen this year that I would like to have disappear from their experience:

  1. Pre-printed worksheets straight from the publisher
  2. Computer graded bubble tests (seriously? bubble tests still exist in classrooms? I thought those were LONG gone.)
  3. Textbooks that are 10+ years old.
  4. Classes that rely on text and include very little for the visual learner – who now make up over 60% of the generation born with the internet.
  5. Classes that teach current events using only newspapers. (Don’t get me wrong – we get 2 print papers delivered to our house every day. But geez… you can’t just read the newspaper!)
  6. Punishment for “copying” a worksheet. Have you ever heard of collaboration? Oh – how about ditching the worksheet and going for something a little more interesting.
  7. Phones kept off during the day. Kids can’t use the computers in their pockets, such as a $1.99 graphing calculator on a phone – instead have to carry around a separate $100 calculator.
  8. Computer labs. Come on, people, it’s time to let the kids have access. Every teacher I’ve talked to who works in a school with 1:1 access says it has CHANGED their teacher dramatically for the better.
  9. Online textbooks that really are just pdfs online. Please – come on you techies (and I am one) let’s get more creative. That’s what I’m working on.
  10. Refusal to acknowledge and work with varied learning styles. Just because you learn one way doesn’t mean your kids have to learn that way. Some kids really do need to move. Some need it visually. Assessments should also reflect various learning styles, not just yours.
  11. Google Apps but no tools. How do you expect the kids to take advantage of the great things Google Apps can do if they don’t have access to a computer?
  12. Being afraid of change. Many of the classes, texts, curriculum look eerily similar to what I had back in the 70s. If I did my job like I did even in the 90s (heck, my job didn’t even exist 5 years ago!) I’d be in big trouble.
  13. Not talking to parents. Just because I’m a parent and not in the classroom doesn’t mean I know nothing. First of all, I was in a classroom — and 20 years ago, I was doing many of the things I strive for now (differentiating teaching, project based learning, no computerized tests, and more.) Yet, often when I ask a question about using technology or meeting different learning styles, I’m given a polite “You’re just a parent and you obviously have no idea what your’e talking about” look and dismissed. (Thank goodness this isn’t always the case. For the teachers who do not treat me that way, thank you from the bottom of my heart.)
  14. Thinking it’s someone else’s job to teach digital literacy and responsibility. It’s all of our jobs. I’m doing it as a parent. Why isn’t the school doing it’s part?
  15. The line, “We’re preparing them for college.” Really? Shouldn’t we really be preparing them for life?

Phew. Sorry. Got on a bit of a rant. My apologies to the wonderful teachers that my kids have who do not exemplify the things above. I just wish the system could change so this things could go away.

Kids are Test Data

I’ve blogged before about my strong dislike for standardized testing and treating kids as numbers. But, since I am just a parent, my voice doesn’t seem to count for much. District staff dismiss my concerns because I don’t know enough (they think) and tell me not to worry about my kids’ scores. But they sure do worry about the scores!  Everything is seen through the lens of test scores: the achievement gap, funding, class placement, graduation rates, curriculum, etc.

Thank goodness for teacher bloggers like Pernille Ripp and Larry Ferlazzo who reacted to a recently posted video by Alfie Kohn in which a high school student is “prepped” for a high stakes standardized test.  (I am not going to post the video here. You can see it by linking to either of the posts linked above.)

The comments have eloquently stated their feelings about these tests, and I agree. My son attends a school where they do very little testing — only one test a year starting in 6th grade. I can so readily see the difference when the teachers don’t have to teach to the test.

In a recent meeting with World Language teachers (I’m a parent rep on a district curriculum committee), they discussed how they’d like to incorporate online learning more, but the labs are so frequently booked with testing. (The obvious solution is a 1:1 or BYOD set up.) At my daughter’s high school, the kids who aren’t taking the tests don’t go to school during testing time. Something is also wrong with that picture….

Numbers and data shouldn’t drive education. Students should.