For starters I am not writing about what is happening in my own classroom this year…. This is about the trend I see in education across the years and students in general.
It is time we stand up and say ENOUGH to those who are telling us we need have young children passing certain academic standards and ‘guiding’ us to change what we are doing in our classrooms. I am not saying that things do not need to change … They do… And they have. We are living in a changed system that has gotten so far away from what it was 20 or 30 years ago that for many it no longer works. In the primary grades (children ages 5-9) students must do 90 minutes of math and 120 minutes of language arts, we are at recess or lunch for 90 minutes and p.e. or library for another 40… If you add in transition time that is almost 6 hours. That gives us just over an hour for science, thematic activities, music, art, social studies, and anything else I want to teach my class (like kindness and manners).
‘That doesn’t sound that bad’, you may say…. No it does not, IF everyone is ready to learn. I could knock out great lesson after great lesson and no child would be left behind. But today’s classrooms are filled with a handful of children who are in the zone. Many young children come to school and their primary needs are about being socialized, learning to get along, how to share and take turns, how to keep their hands to themselves (not hit), how to function in a group, how to follow directions, how not to have a meltdown, and how to be respectful of others. That is a lot to teach in 6 hours a day, let alone squeeze it into the remaining hour we have left. Yes, those things are taught all day long because they must be. But, that also takes away from each of those other blocks of time… Who suffers? They do, and so do the kids who are ‘in the zone’.
It is not their fault. More and more children have parents who are fighting addiction or battling for custody. Children are traveling from house to house, come to school hungry, run the show at home, or are fending for themselves. So, many parents are grateful that their child is finally old enough to attend school because they can’t handle them at home. We are left to teach so much of what should be taught by families. Again, I must say that there are children with families who are raising wonderful children… Single parents, blended families, intact families, and every other variation. But the other group is growing and we have to figure out how to adjust, and the answer is not more stringent academic standards or curriculum for primary children…. It is vocabulary, decision making, kindness, manners, culture, and everything that goes with parenting young children…. The task is huge! My job is to create children who can function in school, love school, and are learners… But we need to begin with the basics.