Honor Roll Doesn’t Mean Children Are Learning

I’m posting this column from one of my favorite conservative columnists on the internet. I enjoy reading Mychal Massie’s Daily Rant because he speaks the truth without making any apologies for what he says. Read on!

I have long held that American children are academically dumb and getting dumber, and I’ve held that the reasons for same are the intrusion of the federal government into our education system, illiterate teachers full of elaborate teaching methods that do not work, and parents.

Parents do not like to hear that their children aren’t getting a marketable education. It is easier to live in denial than face the reality that their children are being poorly educated, despite a stint or two on the honor roll. I hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but more times than not, it does not mean your child has learned anything substantive. Plus, I am unapologetic in my condemnation of parents who do not provide consistent learning environments for their children. Children are the future of our nation.

So-called educators have gone to great lengths to dumb down the children of America, and most parents don’t give a rat’s tail about it as long as they can say their child made the honor roll. But my position is that making the honor roll in most public schools means less than nothing. It, at best, means little if the parents aren’t providing a consistent learning environment outside of the classroom.

With the above-referenced always in my mind, this morning the first news that caught my attention was an article written by Kala Rama “Passing Score Lowered For FCAT Writing Exam” in Florida. (http://www.clickorlando.com/news/Passing-score-lowered-for-FCAT-Writing-exam/-/1637132/13396234/-/k1ckc2z/-/index.html) Rama reported: “The Board of Education decided in an emergency meeting Tuesday to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida’s standardized test after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.”

FCAT is the acronym for Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam. Rather than being resolved to the expectation that children are in school to learn and those charged with ensuring that happens are teachers–Florida, like many other school systems, found it easier to lower the requisites for passing.

I would hope that it is glaringly obvious that lowering the score needed to pass an exam does not increase the students‘ learning capacity. Parents need to understand that. A poorly educated child who has been the beneficiary of lowered expectations and lowered grades necessary for passing may graduate from high school on the honor roll–but then what? What will the child do with their “I graduated on the honor roll, and I’m going to college, graduate and get a good job.”

The truth, however, is must less optimistic. They may graduate from college, but it won’t be with the requisite marketable employment skills to even give them a chance of landing a high-paying good job. They will, however, leave college in debt from student loans, and with an education that hasn’t prepared them for the future.

It is a variant form of socialism that believes lowering scores required for passing gives everyone a better opportunity to succeed. What it does, in reality, is ensure that there will be another generation of unemployed and underemployed.

In 2003, I wrote “No Foundations, No Future” in which I addressed this very problem. I wrote:

“In Florida, minority students are accepted into college, but are unable to pass the multiple choiceFCAT test that requires only a 40 percent score and can be taken five times to pass.”

In Pennsylvania, between one-third and one-half of prospective math and science teachers failed their certification tests. About one-third of applicants flunked special-education certification. Nearly 50 percent of prospective Spanish teachers failed their tests. More than one-third of the applicants failed both the pre-professional skills test in writing and social studies. On the “content knowledge” portion of the math test, 43 percent of the teachers failed. (Jane Elizabeth /John M.R. Bull, Post-Gazette – “Up to half of teacher candidates failing tests,” Jan. 17, 2002)

In Illinois, 5,243 teachers failed key exams. The New York Times asked the question: “What to do about [New York] teachers who chronically fail their certification exams? Some in New York have failed 10 times – 3,000 have never passed.”

Parents may not like what I am saying, but the truth is my defense. It doesn’t take money to ensure children are educated; it takes commitment from the parents and teachers. My family set the bar high when it came toeducation, and the expectations that my cousins and I would achieve and exceed them were as much an absolute as sunshine. My teachers didn’t care about our color–they cared that we learned. Our parents didn’t demand teachers of color, and diversity was the number of different books we read, not a color-coded faculty.

I’ve had conversations with editors who tell me how ill-equipped and unprepared many of the young people they interview are. I personally observe the lack of professional skills in young people today. Sadly, many parents today are more concerned about themselves than they are their children. And they are willing to turn to those who will validate (for a price) whatever excuse they feel will absolve them of guilt and/or responsibility.

Parents need to open their eyes and see what they are allowing to happen to their children. Many children today have no interest in learning, their interests lie in X-Box, the latest electronic gadget, worthless television programming, and the latest song. Unfortunately, that doesn’t ensure capable contributors to our free-market; it ensures that, at some point, we will see the further erosion of skilled employees.

I concluded the 2003 piece referenced above saying: “The foundations of America are being destroyed: A watered down, diluted god of convenience; moral decay within the family; poorly educated teachers andstudents; and a government that governs for the posterity of itself is – agree or not – the death knell of our nation.”

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365 Snap Shots of Life: Day 87

Education Requires Conversation

Education is not always  about opening textbooks, taking tests where you regurgitate the information you had to memorize in order to get a passing grade. Education is also not just having an instructor who shows you a new skill. Education requires conversation.

I can look back on the teachers I had when I went to school and the ones who are still with me, are the ones who didn’t always make the class crack the book open. In 1oth grade I had Mr. Griffin for World history. He was an eccentric man. He was in his 60’s, dressed impeccably and told the best stories. He had been a quarter back in high school ,went on to play in college; served in the military, I think he went to Korea. After the war he came back and became a commercial airline pilot.  If  Mr. Griffin would have said he ran for president, I would have believed him. He interacted with us on a daily basis. Don’ task me what I learned about world history in his class. I did learn that he was a deeply caring human being who liked his students. I never saw anyone sleeping in his class either.

When he would assign reports and students asked him how long or short did the report have to be Mr. Griffin always said,” Like a ladies’ dress: Long enough to cover the subject and short enough to keep it interesting.” I chuckle because I’ve used that same line on my kids in the past.

Mr. Griffin also hated  PDA which was always common in the last few second before the bell rang. Often I’d see him step out  and yell at the couples making out in his hallway,” Stop swapping slobber will ya?!!!”

True education requires conversations where both the teacher and the students interact and share ideas as well as argue points. Mt. Griffin shared and at times he’d let us do the sharing. Great teachers ought to also be able to learn from the students. My kids have taught me so many lessons along the way. Just today I had a conversation with my almost 16-year-old daughter where she helped me see something in a new light.

Last year I held a writing group in my home. The group consisted of kids my kids knew. I’d open up with a free write;  a time to let them unleash whatever they wanted on paper. Afterwards they had the chance to share if they were comfortable. At first, the idea turned them off because they thought it would be like regular school. Once they saw that they had the choice whether to read their writing in front of others or not, they became bolder. Pretty soon every writing session was amazing because these kids had somewhere they could come to where they would be heard. We all learned from each other and that’s what’s most important. Our writing time turned into sometimes deep, other times hilarious conversations. I miss those times because I met some exceptional young people.

Talking about education is like learning to dance by reading a book. You might get the basic technique down but you won’t really be dancing until you actually get on the floor and risk making a fool of yourself. Education requires conversation because that’s how you as a teacher, know that your students are learning and your students will know you care about them;because you value their views and opinion. After all, the teacher isn’t always right.

Love requires relationship. – Unknown

Great Credentials Do Not a Great Teacher Make

This blog is a follow-up to the one I posted yesterday:https://evasantiago.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/noah-webster-defines-education/

NOTE to all of my GREAT teacher friends: This EXCLUDES YOU! So if the shoe doesn’t fit, please don’t wear it :)

I have observed this particular phenomenon for a while now. My youngest daughter attends a dance studio here in town. She’s been taking  dance classes for 5 years now and we’ve changed studios twice. I see in today’s topic  a disturbing trend and one that not too many people want to discuss. Did you know that as teachers we have the potential to mentor our students? Let me define the word mentor-

MENTO’RIAL, a. [from Mentor,the friend and adviser of Ulysses.]

Containing advice or admonition.

Mentoring

When I went to school there were a few teachers that I still remember well. They were not only interested in doing their job to impart knowledge to me. They went a step further and  mentored me. Yes, I understand that in the large classroom sizes of today, that is difficult.  Back then, our class size  ranged around 25 kids per teacher, and some of these fine teachers I had took the extra time with me .

The one characteristic that stands out the most of my teachers that I remember with great affection is that they were there to set the right example for me. So naturally I was under the notion that a good teacher can be a great role model. And  I see this quality lacking in a lot of the teachers at my daughter’s dance studio.

The students are required to adhere by a strict dress code and yet the dance instructors shows up in whatever they felt like wearing to class that day. Many times I’ve wondered if they even ran a comb through their hair before they left the house. Why bother with the dress code then? That was what all 3 of my daughters asked me when they were all taking classes. I could hear the frustration in their voices and I saw how the teacher not following her own rules demoralizes her students.

Another great quality that all of my favorite teachers possessed was that they respected me not only as their student but also as a human being. They never talked down to me or made me feel less than the child I was.  I have lost track of the times my girls have come home from a dance class, completely discouraged because of a callous tongue, icy disposition or indifferent attitude from their dance instructor. When I addressed this issue with the owner of the studio, she just blew it off and assured me that my girls needed to “toughen up” because this is how it goes in the the dance world!

I laughed at that because my girls are pretty tough cookies already who can hold their own. The owner proceeded  to tell me about the credentials of the teachers there and that they were “lucky” to be trained by  professionals with such clout. Really?

So it’s acceptable to be a nasty teacher with a mean temper just because you trained at Julliard and danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? I was far from impressed and I let her know it. Folks, how can teachers demand respect from their students when they are not setting the right examples for them to follow. Children look to their superiors for guidance and if non is offered they turn a deaf ear.

Teaching is not just another job you  show up to  so you can collect your paycheck . If you don’t care a hill of pinto beans about children, if children repulse you and if you have zero tolerance for them, then perhaps you need to find your true calling. Teaching is a higher calling like that of being a parent; that’s why it’s so undervalued and under paid.

This post is dedicated to all the wonderful teachers I had throughout my school years:

Sister Margaret- St. Francis School- 1st grade

Ms. Mary  Ellen McClellan- St. Francis School-3rd Grade

Ms. Molly Gillard-St. John’s- 6th Grade

Mrs. Carol Kane-Bitburg American Middle School (BAMS)-6th Grade

Mrs. Reece- BAMS-7thGrade

Mr. James- BAMS- 8th Grade

Mrs. Betty Meyers-BAMS- 8th Grade

Mr. Griffin– Marshall High School10th Grade

Ms. Andermatt- Marshall High School-11th Grade

Mr. Walter Collis- Marshall High School- 11th,12th Grades

Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication! I never forgot how much you cared.

Stand on This!

From time to time in my years of home schooling I have run into certain insecurities about my calling. Are my kids learning enough? Can I teach them everything that they need to know before they leave the nest? Have I done my job as their teacher well? Will they be able to succeed in life? I mean the questions kept coming over the years until one day I read this scripture in Isaiah 54:13, ” Your children will be taught of the Lord and they shall know great peace.” I made that scripture the  focus of my homeschooling philosophy.
 
Since then I have talked to parents from both camps; homeschoolers and public schoolers and I have heard parents raise the same questions I have had. The answer is simple really; of course we can’t teach our kids EVERYTHING they need to know by the time they are 18. Seriously, does anyone ever graduate from high school having all the knowledge they will need for the rest of their life? Also, as far as what kind of job did I do as my kid’s main teacher? That too becomes more clear as they grow up; I rest in knowing that I gave them my best and I tried my best. As far as knowing whether they will succeed in life; that will depend entirely on them; yet again I rest knowing that I equipped them with tools for their lives and it’s up to them to take what was given to them and use that for their benefit.
 
May I suggest something to you? Give yourself some credit from time to time. If you are doing your best by your children, God honors that! Enjoy your summer day 🙂
 
” I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” -Chinese Proverb
 
 
 

Unlock Treasure

My 3 girls attend dance lessons at an academy. They have teachers they learn a lot from and other teachers they don’t learn much from. Do you want to know what is the difference? I will be more than glad to tell you! The teachers my kids consider good and they can’t wait to see week after week are teachers who impart to them in a noble spirit; they are patient with the students and supportive. When they correct the students they don’t tear them down with harsh destructive criticism; they use constructive criticism to build up the student  thusly, the student grows. The other teachers are the complete opposite and they wear down the kid’s morale. Oh I’ve heard it from other grown ups that at times harsh critical words can aid the student in toughening her up and giving her a back bone. I disagree. ” No one has yet to fully realize the wealth of sympathy, kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of true education should be to unlock the treasure.” –Emma Goldman This quote shows me that in order to bring out the best in our children we need to value them and nurture them , it doesn’t work any other way.

Work!

Hola!
I want to touch on the value of teaching children to work at an early age. Home schooling is not just about opening the books everyday; it is so much more than that. I have given my children certain chores to do around the house that they are responsible for completing. This is to instill in them to learn to value work; all kinds of work. This is an ethic they can take with them for their whole lives. Washing dishes, making beds, cleaning bath rooms, cooking, grocery shopping; and countless other jobs that go with the running of a home are all as important as the type of work you get a grade for or later on in life, a pay check for. This kind of work is humbling and it helps instill character in children.
 
Proverbs 14:23
In all work there is profit. So please teach your kids the value of work!