I used to be a teacher.
I started out as the full-time aide to an autistic student.
After that, I spent three years as a 6th grade teacher.
And then six years as a 4th grade teacher.
I loved working with the kids.
It was extremely rewarding.
But even 10 years ago, in my last year of teaching, the public schools had already taken a turn for the worse.
The ability to plan activities that allowed for the kids’ creativity and individual strengths was slowly being eroded from the curriculum.
Opportunities for teachable moments and even,
were becoming few and far between.
Now they are virtually nonexistent.
My little town’s school system has recently been slammed by the Board of Finance.
It is looking like there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars cut from next year’s education budget.
Teachers will be cut, class sizes will increase, freshman sports may be cut, and foreign language instruction will not be offered to elementary students.
These are just a few of the potential outcomes resulting from these cuts to the budget.
This Common Core bullshit isn’t helping.
If you don’t have kids in elementary school right now, you may have heard of Common Core, but not know exactly what it is.
Apparently our schools are pumping out high school graduates who are not capable of handling the demands of a college education and who are ill-prepared to succeed in life.
So a bunch of people came up with a set of math and language arts standards that all children, in every state, should be meeting at the end of each grade.
These standards measure, I guess, the basic fundamentals of reading, writing, and math, but also test the area in which our children are currently failing in epidemic proportions as young adults.
Higher order thinking skills.
As a result, now our schools are spending the majority of their time teaching kids to answer problems so that they can meet these standards.
Solving math problems using non traditional methods.
I get this.
Kids are learning different ways to solve problems.
We want them to understand the concept and the process.
Not just some rote method that they memorize to get the answer.
We want them to apply these processes of determining the answer to other areas of their lives.
Because their lives will present them with many, many complicated problems.
Not easily solvable, one step subtraction problems.
Unfortunately, we don’t present them with real world situations in which to put these higher level thinking skills to use.
There is no time left.
And there is another larger problem.
Solving problems takes time and hard work.
And lots of it.
And that is where, I believe, our students are failing.
Because that is where we are failing our children.
We are not teaching our kids the value and necessity of hard work, occasional failure, and perseverance.
I am not of the philosophy that once you become an adult you are obligated to work your ass off for 52 weeks a year in a thankless job that makes you miserable.
I want to earn money doing something I enjoy.
Something that gives me personal fulfillment.
Something that I’m good at.
I think that last point often confuses people.
And kids, in particular.
Because having a natural ability for something and really enjoying doing it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work hard to be successful.
Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Derek Jeter, Mia Hamm, Danica Patrick, Maria Sharapova…
They don’t just wake up and walk onto the court or the deck or the field or the track and kick everyone else’s ass.
Mark Cuban and Oprah did not become bazillionaires overnight.
Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga and Pharrell and Adam Levine didn’t just sit down one day, record an album, and then rake in the bucks the next day.
Nothing comes easily.
And that is where parents are failing.
It is hard to hold your kids accountable.
It is hard to not give in to the whining. The begging. The pleading.
It is easy to make excuses.
It is easier to do your kid’s project for him than it is to actually make him do the work himself.
For some reason, we won’t allow our kids to sit with their shitty project, that they spent 5 minutes on at the last minute, and feel embarrassed about it.
We argue with teachers and we contest final grades.
We make excuses.
We give ribbons and trophies and awards for accomplishing almost nothing.
For coming in last place.
We teach our kids that they are always awesome.
We demand that everything is equal.
We ruin parties and birthdays and fun times at school for everybody else because maybe our kid won’t be able to participate.
Even though that is what happens in real life. You know, when you are a so-called adult, and are out in the real world.
We tell our kids they are amazing when sometimes they aren’t.
Not even close.
We worry about making our kids feel bad.
But sometimes they should feel bad.
We want to protect our kids from every single thing.
It is hard to see your kids fail.
To feel disappointment.
Or full on devastation.
But eliminating those feelings from their childhood and teenage years is much more damaging than experiencing the feelings themselves.
And it’s dangerous.
We as parents, are not preparing our children for the realities of adulthood.
Sometimes it sucks.
Sometimes the solution to the problem is easy.
Other times, it’s not.
And then there are the teachers and administrations.
Yes, there are good ones.
But there are, unfortunately, many who are not holding kids accountable either.
I know it is difficult to deal with these parents.
These parents who want to hand everything to their children in a neat little package.
These parents who threaten lawsuits for any and every reason.
But schools have now adopted the policy of offering retests when a kid fails.
So why bother studying?
You can just take another test.
An endless opportunity for second chances.
Although adulthood doesn’t work that way.
Then there is the kid who goes into the end of the marking period with a C- average but who gets a B on his report card.
Because the teacher hadn’t averaged in homework.
Or because they know giving a kid the grade she actually earned, putting a C or a D or an F on a report card will result in a phone call from a parent demanding that the grade be changed.
So, they cave.
What a disservice to the student.
We are allowing kids to graduate almost no matter what they do.
Yeah, I know it started with that No Child Left Behind garbage.
But you know what?
Some kids should be left behind.
They should be held back.
Colleges should be given an accurate reflection of their applicants.
Not some pussified, over inflated, easy button version.
Our kids are ill-prepared for college and for careers because we are allowing them to graduate when they have not met the basic requirements.
Our kids are not prepared for college because they did not actually earn anywhere near a 3.0.
Or sometimes even a 2.0.
It takes time to study.
It takes hard work and attention to detail to produce a decent project or essay or whatever they call them now.
Athletes train for years, to play in a series that may last for a week or two.
Or a championship game that lasts a couple hours.
Or an Olympic race that lasts just seconds.
Years of training for a 5 second race.
The ratio of the amount of hard work you have to put in to experience that moment of victory or a good grade is almost always inversely proportional.
But we don’t teach our kids this.
We want to make everything easy.
And in doing so, we are making everything much more difficult.
We might be able to get rid of Common Core.
But in order to do that, parents and teachers are going to need to start using some common sense.
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