Friday, August 24, 2012

The Problem with Public Education

As the new school year approaches, I cannot help but reflect on WHY I am not sending my kids this year.

So clearly I have a problem with public school if I am going to these great lengths to avoid it right? Well, sort of. I don't have the 'usual' problems that you hear, such as: bullying, inappropriate peer models, religious objections to curriculum, socialization problems....My problem is pretty simple really - I hate how much they sit and push papers! I know, I know, you've heard this before. But think about it. They are in school for 6 1/2 hours a day. 30-40 min for lunch, 20 min for recess (and not always), 40 minutes for special. Once in a while they have 2 specials in one day, so make it an even 60 minutes for specials. That leaves 4 1/2 hours of sitting at a desk!

I am sorry but I cannot sit at a desk for 4 1/2 hours, let alone my 5 & 7 year old children. And we wonder why things like ADHD are on the rise?! Not only are we asking these kids to sit for tremendous amounts of time, we are also asking them to do things that developmentally, their bodies are not necessarily ready for. Did you know that developmentally, a child can wait until age 5 to choose hand dominance and that's considered within the normal range? How do you expect a 5 year old (or in some cases 4 year olds) to be able to write their name, letters, numbers and soon enough words, if developmentally they should just be choosing hand dominance?!?!

Think about when you went to kindergarten. I don't know about you but I went to half day kindergarten, we had NAP TIME, snack time, play time & maybe watched a filmstrip (yes I am THAT old) on a letter a week. THAT WAS IT! I was able to read and write at that point, but not all children are ready for that at 5. We spent the entire time socializing, learning through play and experiences, singing songs.....sound familiar? So what the hell are we doing now? These poor kids come home with packets of worksheets each day, they play outside once or twice a week, and they have a kitchen set in their classroom that doesn't get touched. Unbelievable!

Now it's easy for me to say because I am not responsible for teaching 20+ 4-6 year olds right? WRONG. I have taught in the classroom before. Except I did it with 18, 4-5 year olds, half of which had special needs. It is possible to teach a large group of children in a hands-on, multisensory way. I came from a school that refused to do worksheets. Our preschool was modeled after our kindergarten, so they did not do worksheets either. Well then, how do they learn to write? oh, I  dunno - sand, fingerpaint, magnetic letters, shaving cream, pudding, chalk.........How do they learn their letters and to read?  By being offered a literature rich environment. How do they learn math? Through counting & sorting manipulatives. Learning through hands on experiences. What a novel idea. For example, when we read the '3 Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens' the students listened to the story at circle, they acted it out, they had a felt board to act it out, they had REBUS charts (matching a word to a picture), they had mittens at the water table & had to hang them on a clothesline (also a fine motor activity), they counted cats and mittens, sorted cats or mittens by color or put them into patterns (math activities), they had cat books in the library, housekeeping, and listening centers............shall I go on?

If I can teach 4 and 5 year olds, half of which have special needs, in a center based, hands-on, multisensory way, why can't our teachers do it with older kids that have no disabilities? I realize there are unidentified students with special needs in these classrooms. I realize that teachers have little creative license in their classrooms. Districts purchase curriculums that the teachers are forced to teach.

However, I do not give the teachers a full pass, there are ways around this, I did it. But your district, the one YOU PAY TAXES TO, needs to hear this in masses from it's taxpayers. Most teachers went into teaching because they love it. They are creative, innovative and have the ability to teach children in a variety of exciting, interesting, and more appropriate ways than these curriculums allow them to. Get involved in your child's education.Write an email, attend a board meeting, talk to your principal.....

Demand more of your schools.

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