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When Will We Learn?

Let’s not pretend that we don’t know what is going on in the education system. Especially in our “one curriculum and expectations” fits all mentality. Teachers are to work over the required hours, except excuses for why students can’t succeed, give grades to satisfy parents and administration, and worse of all, make Lil’ Johnny learn even if he doesn’t want to by any means necessary. This pandemic illustrated what many of us always knew or vocalized, but no one cared. The education system is controlled by politicians and the “rich” parents who have their children zoned in the “good school areas.” If education is created equal, why is zoning important to those invested in their child’s educational status? All schools should have the same degree of prestige, right?

Do we want to teach what our children need to become responsible, successful, and productive adults in this world? If we did, we would not do half of the things asked to make the numbers. We sit in meetings that break down data every month that illustrates the false reality of it all. We know the actions that are asked of us daily will never assist our students in the real-world. Instead, we have to abide by the requests, long hours of class time, and a plethora of busy work to show that we have taught the given curriculum by the deadline. To cover up the educational mess that has existed for years, we have to give grades because zeros aren’t acceptable in numerous education systems. We also lowered the standards to continuously accommodate the low effort and scores illustrated by many students. When will we change the entire education system?

For some odd reason, illustrating the truth to our stakeholders will weaken the system. Who came up with the idea of children getting free grades for doing nothing will prepare them for the real world anyway? Who came up with taking away deadlines, responsibility, and accountability because of how long it has taken some children to decide to start on an assignment? Whose bright idea was it to take away critical thinking and decision making skills from education? But yet, we complain about how the same children expect entitlement? Not only have parents created the entitlement behavior, but the education system has played a huge role in it as well. We have created a system where many parents and students expect to be given grades for doing the very least. Teachers could no longer write or grade in “red” ink because of the effects it brought on children. We could no longer give the options of “putting forth effort” or “do your very best”. Instead, we are forced to accept mediocre work because that is acceptable now. Let’s just give him a grade for writing his name on the paper. Let’s not forget the scandals concerning the rich and famous that paid their children’s way through school without them actually earning that prestigious spot. When will we do away with test that doesn’t actually illustrate necessary skills needed to be a productive citizen?

We are putting an unrealistic time frame on how long we have to stay on a specific topic. Forget the fact that learning doesn’t operate that way. Every child learns differently and at a different pace. We have to keep children in class for ninety minutes or more, knowing that the average attention span is 25-45 minutes per topic. I guess because some brilliant person with a doctoral degree and various studies came up with the bright idea to increase class time and create a block schedule. After all, that is the new educational trend sweeping the nation, we must follow. Let’s ignore that education worked so much better with shorter class periods per day and seven class periods daily. It went by so much faster for the person who could not sit in class too long without skipping. Hell, I guess I have a problem as well!!! I hate sitting somewhere listening and learning that long without having the option to walk to another subject or place that doesn’t confine me to one room.

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We are so afraid to speak the truth. So many students are just blatantly lazy or not interested in school. We have taken away so many electives, trade opportunities, and activities from them; that they no longer find school fun and necessary. Some students who were passed along in elementary school are now feeling the effects of not learning the basics. Because some parents didn’t want to deal with the fact that their child needed extra help in elementary school, teachers or administration decided to go ahead and pass him/her along. The same cycle occurs later in middle and high school. Many administrators and teachers do not want to deal with the helicopter parent that wants their child to pass along, maintain scholar instead of the honor roll, or play sports before learning the basics of life. Some parents don’t want to accept the real issues that have occurred in their child’s education. We have taught our students that if they require less and fuss enough, educators and administrators will pass them along. We are unable to teach our children the consequences of not being on time or trying your best. We have become accustomed not to teach children that you may fail sometimes, but you have to do better next time. Many were only worried about the current status, never the permanent repercussions that come along with it. Maybe some parents were enablers? Is the education system an enabler as well? Hell yes!!!

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As a parent, have you asked yourself some truthful questions such as: Is my child illustrating the same behaviors before or after COVID? Was Lil’ Johnny skipping class before? Was he/she not performing well before the pandemic? Were you an active participant in your child’s education before the pandemic? Many are blaming the pandemic for education failures. Many are now personally facing the reality of what they did not want to deal with before the pandemic. Maybe, he/she isn’t willing to put forth the effort or attempt to learn something new because they know that it isn’t required. They know they will get another pass regardless if he/she does it or not. Many parents know their child made it this far without the tools to become productive and don’t care as long as he/she passes. Let’s be honest. The political aspect of it all is funding and numbers. If the numbers aren’t right, they will be adjusted to keep up with the expectations. To keep up with the numbers, expectations and the grading scales will be lowered. When that doesn’t work out, we are fudging grades and numbers because we don’t want to show the “truth.” We are making excuses for why we are giving student’s grades. But yet, we want to all be on the same playing field as the others. Is that the reason we have to do more harm than good for our less fortunate students?

Rewarding the students who are not putting forth any effort, or just not motivated for education teaches all students that failure is accepted and required to make it in this world. We have taught students that doing less than required will get them to the league or college. Those students expect to receive extra months to complete one worksheet to receive free grades that will bring them up to “par”. They also have various celebrations, parties, dinners, and recognition for being such a great underachiever. In this case, why should anyone try to do their best at learning? How does this make the overachievers feel when they are 1 point or maybe 20 points away from an “A”? I don’t know about you, but that is pretty shitty if you ask me. When a child asked me, “how is it fair that the kids that won’t do their work get grades, and I can’t get extra points without doing extra work?” I agree with that question. Why does he have to work just as hard to maintain grades and others do not? Is it an equal playing field? Not!!! Why does anyone think it is fair to give a student a “D” who completes only 2 assignments; whereas Mickey gets a “D” because he earned it? How would that honestly make you feel as a child? Would you aim high or go low? Make it make sense mathematically for me. It doesn’t seem fair to give a 50 point spread for an F to students who blatantly doesn’t try to do his/her work and a 10 point spread for all other student’s who put forth the effort to do their work. Yes, I agree an F is an F, but if you really care about illustrating mastery, the grading scale needs to be mathematically correct. If a 50 is the lowest, then 50 points should be awarded across the board.

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This is when it becomes unfair and confusing at the same damn time. Students and teachers are following the new theme of “preparing students for the real world.” Next, teachers are asked to stick with rules and teach accountability by preparing students to become productive citizens. Imagine being in a meeting discussing the importance of challenging students to reach higher standards by giving them rigor that will teach them responsibility, accountability, and time management. Then, next week’s meeting reprimands you for not showing empathy or consideration for what students are feeling because of the type of work you are giving and the deadlines? It creates an environment of inconsistency. Next, imagine teachers teaching the required lessons that your administrations want to see in your class; but then reprimand you because the parents and students said it is too much or too difficult? You never know when it is the right time to teach rigor or simplicity. The consequences of these actions create an environment where students began to “hustle” teachers for less work, extra points, time, or credit because it invades their time, social life, nap time, or extra-curricular activities. Guess what happens next? The teacher must create more lessons to get those students who refused to do the one assignment by the due date that was previously extended eight times. Now the student has learned that procrastination is the way to go. If they procrastinate long enough, the school system will adjust to their procrastination. If they do not attempt to do the work, the education system will adjust by lowering the standards to meet them where they are. The lesson taught to students is that no effort is required, excuses get you everything, minimum expectations are accepted, and time means absolutely nothing in life.

When we make excuses for why students cannot achieve, we create a society of lazy and illiterate adults. When we pacify the parents who will not take the initiative to just for once sit down with their child for at least 30 minutes a day, we do not hold them accountable as the parent. Regardless of how many hours you work, you are responsible for making time for your children’s educational needs. It wouldn’t hurt to ask these questions:

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“What did you do today in class?”

“Let me see your work”

“Did you turn it in? If so, let me see what you have submitted?”

“Why didn’t you do your work?”

“Did you ask for help or stay for tutoring?” “If so, let me see the email”

“Where is your report card?” “Show me your grades”

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Show me how to get into your Blackboard, Canvas, Schoology, Google Classroom, PowerSchool, ASAP, etc.

When will we feel comfortable telling parents that so eagerly blame teachers for their children’s educational downfalls to participate in their children’s educational journey even if they do not know the subject to say to their child:

“Let me read this out to you”, “We can do this together”, “I am going to sit here until you turn in your work”

“Let’s Google or use YouTube to find some examples or assistance”

“I may not know it myself but we can work on it together by finding someone to help us”

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When I was a child, education was fun. Was it challenging? Absolutely. Were there things my parents and grandparents didn’t know? It sure was. I learned very fast that if I didn’t do the work, I would get a zero. If I got a zero, I had to do better the next time. No one called the teacher or principal to complain about the zero I earned because I forgot to do the assignment!!! I learned to accept that and do better. I learned that it was okay to forget sometimes. Some of my peers that didn’t do that well in school had the option to learn various trades or go to the military. They had options available to learn hands-on skills. When will we learn that it is not okay to lower expectations because we aren’t on an “even” playing field? When will we learn that trade classes and other electives are necessary to teach them basic life and survival skills? When will we learn that college isn’t for everyone. When will we learn that educational requirements should not be from people who make a profit off the numbers; but from the teachers who work in the trenches to make things happen? When will we learn that it’s okay to fall to the bottom to reach the top? When will we learn that standardized testing doesn’t teach the basics? When will we learn that a school should navigate in a way that would allow necessary changes, even if it means the numbers aren’t going to be acceptable? Hard lessons are learned that way in life. Nothing comes easy. When will we learn that the “Will” of the student is what matters. It is up to the student and/or parents to put forth the effort to succeed. If the child isn’t willing to learn or accept all the avenues given for him/her to succeed; how can a teacher be held accountable? If there are parents who allow their children to be truant to school and refuse to answer calls, texts, emails because they do not want to be bothered with the ongoing issues concerning their child unwillingness to learn; how can education be to blame? If we continue to social promote and pass students without the ability to read and write on an elementary level, what are we actually doing as an education system?

The pandemic just opened up everyone eyes to the ongoing issues plaguing education. It has illustrated that even the smallest and simplest tasks aren’t being completed by some of our students. When all stakeholders (parents, guardians, teachers, administrators, and politicians) play their role in education, then we will see a difference. Teachers are not the only responsible person in your child’s education. It takes a village. If we aren’t willing to acknowledge and change the errors in the education system; we will continue with this ongoing cycle. Until that special someone comes into the education arena and go against the norms; we will continue prolonging the downfall of our education system. A complete overhaul is necessary along with funding. When will we ever learn?

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