A shocking dose of educational reality.

This Facebook thing I saw and re-posted yesterday really hit me hard, especially in the comments it generated from my many friends who have a vested interest in public education.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, even though I’ve been out of teaching for 11 years, I’ve held out the possibility that I could always go back to it at some point. Not that I’m looking for an “out” from my current career (Director of Children’s Ministry for a large, progressive congregation). But, in my head, I still think of myself as a teacher. I’ve always maintained that a good teacher is born rather than made, and that excellence in teaching is an art that comes from who you are – as well as from well-grounded research, best practices, etc.

Here’s the deal, though: Through the conversation surrounding this FB post, it hit me: There is no way I could ever go back to teaching in public schools as they currently stand. My conscience would not allow me to follow the many educationally inapporpriate practices that are the norm today (and I’m talking from the perspective of someone who has taught in and had my own children in one of the nation’s highest-ranking school systems; I shudder to think what it must be like elsewhere). For example:

  • Seriously reducing (or even eliminating) the amount of movement/excercise time children are given, and ignoring the research on the important relationship between mind and body.
  • Flawed homework policy; the “gold standard” currently is 10 minutes of homework per day, accumulated per grade level year. Example: kindergarteners should have 10 minutes per day of homework; seniors in high school should have 120 minutes – TWO HOURS – of homework per day. Not only is this policy impractical in the modern world of working, busy families, but it chips away at the free, unstructured time kids need to grow and develop in a healthy way.
  • Over-emphasis on teaching how to take tests and teaching specific information that wil be on standardized tests. To my way of thinking, any emphasis on this bull$%#! is over-emphasis. Honestly, if I were in the classroom again, I think I’d probably get fired over this one. If it came down to free reading time/read-aloud time vs. a lesson in test-taking skills (which it mostly does in today’s classrooms) I would ditch the test-taking crap for reading every time.

The irony is that if I went back to the classroom, I know for a fact I could be a much better teacher now than I ever was all those years ago. I have the experience of my current career, working with families and understanding their challenges. I have the perspective of a parent with three kids who, though they received excellent educations, suffered greatly from the kinds of issues listed above. But I wouldn’t be allowed to use that experience and perspective effectively. I’d be too hampered by seriously poor policy-making in education. So it would be a choice between doing what I know is right and doing what I had to do to keep my job. 

This dose of educational reality created a minor earthquake in my personal narrative today. It’s a darned good thing I’m challenged, fulfilled, and happy in the work I’m doing now, because it turns out I wouldn’t be able to go back.


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