Many people don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about educational choice. Sometimes…I wish I were one of them.
I don’t mean to say that parents don’t worry about their child’s education or spend a great deal of time thinking about where they want to buy a home in order to be in a quality school district. I’m just saying most parents don’t think about their choices beyond those decisions.
I spend A LOT of time considering my options. Guess what? There’s a lot of options.
My therapist has mentioned that this may be what’s causing suffering for me- all the choices. Too many choices. I agree with her. But I also have real, personal concerns about public schooling right now. And that’s not easy for me to say because I love public education and I think it’s vital.
I’m a public school teacher by trade before I became a stay at home parent. My mom was a speech and language pathologist in public schools for 30+ years. Both my closest cousins went into public education. I love public education. And I also have some deep concerns about public education.
First and foremost- I want to say something about teachers. Teachers are amazing. They should be paid $100,000/year for what they do for our most precious people. They do so much with so little and for very little. Most people go into education because they genuinely love children and care about education. Believe me, it’s not for summers off and paid holidays. Most teachers don’t make enough to take summers off and many teachers are still working on school holidays- I know I was!
This is not about teachers- this is about a big huge system that makes change at a snails pace and doesn’t have enough money, time, resources, support, and efficiency to run effectively. Teachers and students pay the biggest price for these issues. It’s why I became so disenchanted with public education and fear sending my children.
My biggest concerns-
- The expectations are not developmentally appropriate. This is backed by tons of research and current best practices but it’s being ignored.
- Behavioral expectations are not age appropriate (i.e., sitting in chairs at desks listening to lectures for far too long, short recess, short lunch, tons of transitions, too many students per class, too much focus on academics, not enough movement, etc.)
- Academic expectations are not developmentally appropriate. We now teach kindergarteners what was originally taught in 2nd grade. They are now expected to write paragraphs with topic sentences by the end of kindergarten. There is so much pressure on non appropriate academics that the cut off date for starting school is an ever moving target. Kindergarten teachers now recommend red-shirting (or holding back) your child if their birthday is anytime after March the year before school starts. Most kids are turning 7 in kindergarten now.
- Kindergarten used to be 1/2 day with early and late birds…it’s now a full day, 5 day/week program.
- Parents are so concerned with the rigorous academic expectations that they are holding their children back from school so they can receive private tutoring to prepare them to read, write, and learn arithmetic their first year. And students are still failing at alarming rates. Many students, that are typically developing, are receiving remedial support and being pulled out from class due to these unrealistic expectations.
- Students are being rigorously tested on a regular basis. Tests now start before school begins. All incoming kindergarteners are tested so that teachers can receive a baseline of all students. They are then tested again twice by October on math and reading. They are then pulled out for remedial support if needed. We then have standardized testing for which all students must prepare for.
- All the testing and developmentally inappropriate expectations lead to a snowball effect in which there’s very little time for art, creativity, music, movement, recess, non-adult directed activities, project based learning, getting messy, and generally being a child.
- There’s also no money for extracurricular activities like music, drama, language programs, character development, community based projects, etc.
- There’s very little focus on the whole child. The child is not an empty pail to be filled with reading, writing, and math concepts to memorize. There’s very little need for children to spend such a huge amount of time memorizing formulas and facts when we have ready access to all that information at the touch of our fingers. There’s very little focus on teaching practices that help students deal with the world they live in- like mindfulness, environmentalism and conservation, character development, resiliency, emotional intelligence, public speaking, working in groups and teams, collaboration, budgeting and real world mathematic application, critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurship, internet etiquette and growing up with social media, social skills, conflict resolution, human behavior, psychology, computer skills like coding, building skills like imagination and creativity, spirituality and world religions, tolerance, languages etc.
- We’re no longer preparing children for the world they will live in. The old formula doesn’t work anymore. The idea that you focus on academics in grade school, graduate with good grades, go to a good college, get a degree, get a good job with benefits and stay in that job till you retire is out of date. Most people I graduated college with are not working in their field. Most couldn’t get jobs with a bachelors degree and many are struggling to find jobs in their field with masters degrees. The money people are making in these so-called “good jobs” isn’t enough to afford a home or the cost of living increase. Most people are changing jobs and moving between states and even countries more than they ever did before. We live in a more accessible world now. Everything we would ever need to learn or remember is always available on the internet. You can take Yale and Harvard classes for free online. You can open an Etsy store and make millions selling boot socks. People are traveling the world writing blogs, selling online courses, and pinning on pinterest.
Now…are most people making millions on Etsy or writing blogs? No. But the world is changing more rapidly in the past 10 years than it has in the 100 before that. And we’re always at a disadvantage in trying to prepare children for an ever changing future that we can’t even imagine. We’ll struggle with this even more as technology advances at higher speeds. It doesn’t mean we continue with the status quo because it’s easier or because we’re dealing with a huge cumbersome system that can’t keep up.
Some schools, some teachers, some districts are doing amazing things. They are forging ahead and breaking walls down and completely revamping the way we do school. I commend them for trying and making such quick change.
I’m of the school of thought that less is more.
Let’s children be children. They have their whole lives to be stressed about jobs, responsibilities, economies, etc. Let them move their bodies, play, climb, run, and dance. Let them be creative and express themselves. Allow them opportunities to make mistakes and cultivate their natural interest and hunger for knowledge. Make learning engaging and interesting. Research supports programs that encompass the whole child and multiple areas of interest (outside of core academics). Such programs actually increase scores on academic standardized assessments. Children learn valuable, translatable skills in play.
So as we get closer and closer to the age where we must decide what we’re going to do with little bean and kindergarten- I will keep you updated on our choice.
For now, we’re considering homeschool hybrid programs, homeschooling, private schools, and the like. Not everyone has those choices and I understand that public school is one of the best choices for most families. I’m just expressing my concerns and ideas for the future of education. It all starts with a conversation.