Tag Archives: Educators

The Detail in the Moment

English: Category:Images of Dallas, Texas
English: Category:Images of Dallas, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t go to preschool or kindergarten. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t long into my first year of school that I was sent to the principal’s office. Here’s what happened: The teacher had left the room. In a firm moment of lost reason I decided it would be super cool to stand on my desk and pretend to be the teacher. We had desks that were little tables with separate chairs. I stood on my desk, not next to it or at the front of the class (well I didn’t need to, my desk was at the front of the class). I danced. I sang. I adapted my best Mrs. Nelson voice – yes, that really was her name – and reminded the class to sit down and be quiet. The class went from hilarious laughter to dead silent. For a moment I felt real POWER! Then I saw the fear in their eyes. Nope, they were not afraid of me. Me, still standing on my desk. I didn’t have to turn around to know who had just re-entered the classroom.

This same teacher soon discovered that my lack of attention and discipline might be related to the fact that I couldn’t see a thing she was writing on the board. Board? I didn’t get why we were even watching her scribble on it. All that watching seemed a waste of time. Mrs. Nelson sent me home with a note that I couldn’t read. Probably because I hadn’t learned how yet. It seemed so ominous.

Soon we were headed to Dallas to see our optometrist. I know. Seems extreme to go from Houston to Dallas to get an eyeglasses prescription but that’s what how my family rolled. Besides, the optometrist and his family were friends with my family. The only other reason I can think that we did that was  because the visit was free. We also ate and slept at their house. This was in the early 60’s. It seems such a weird and wacky thing to do coming from the perspective of nowadays. I mean, Dallas was a long way away in those days. Not that Dallas has moved closer. It just seems like it has because the speed limit is higher and cars are faster – or we drive faster, I don’t know which. Maybe it was a weird and wacky thing in those days, too. Or maybe the White family was that amazing to let us do it. Mrs. White was probably the hospitable person on the planet. She had five kids. We had four kids. That’s a lot of people to feed and house.

Thank you White family of Dallas. I know there are many of you all over the world by now but just a line to say those moments we spent telling stories late into the night from the living room floor were wonderful for all of us kids.

And thank you Mrs. Nelson from E.F. Smith Elementary for being the only teacher to write a positive note on my report card in five years of grade school. “Becky is a wonderful artist!”

So my first pair of glasses were light blue. Cat glasses. The first time I put them on when we got home from the store I went out in the back yard. It was the first time I saw detail. Detail!! You mean everyone can see the individual blades of grass on the ground? It isn’t just a flat mass of green? Clouds? There are clouds in the sky? Suddenly my colorful world was full of wonderful detail. There are not only places to go but things to see! How exciting!

I don’t think I ever got over that moment.

The Truth About Public Education in America

Dutch schoolmaster and children, 1662
Dutch schoolmaster and children, 1662 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When milk is mixed at the processing plant it is called homogenization. The mixing process is so thorough there is no separation of fat from the liquid. The cream no longer rises.

This process is similar to what happened in the public school system when my oldest child began kindergarten twenty-five years ago and this scheme continues to this day. Where there used to be “levels” between classrooms of children, meaning there were the high achievers/high intelligence children in a classroom, the average children in a classroom, and the lower/slower learners. The year my son started, they did away with this. The idea being that the lower/slower children left school with low self-esteem.

The result of this experiment was that there were no “upper-level” classes and “lower-level” classes any longer. However, if the child were to be tested and passed as “gifted and talented” there were classes available for that child.

In theory children mixed together encourage the low-ability children to catch up to the high-ability children. The teacher was to teach to the higher level children and the low-level children would simply work harder. They would learn to be equals.

A fine example of the “liberal” thinking of the board of education. Humanism at its finest.

As you might guess it didn’t and doesn’t work like that.

You can’t throw enough money at children to make them into something they can not be.

The teacher never was able to teach to the highest because the low-ability children were left so far behind that they were in a constant fog of inability. So here is what actually happened: teachers spent 10 minutes of classroom time in the mornings teaching a new concept in language (grammar, reading, writing) and ten minutes in the afternoon teaching a new concept in mathematics, science, or social studies. Then the teacher would give a pile of work to the smart-quick-able children to keep them busy. At that time the teacher would spend the rest of any time she/he had available to take the lower-level children aside and either test them (for ESL [English Second Language] and/or to place them into “pull-outs” involving remedial teachers) or to re-teach them in any concepts that the other children had completed. This would take up about fifty percent of the teacher’s time in both the mornings and in the afternoons. That is in fact if there were no extra outside-of-the-classroom activities such as a program in the cafetorium about diversity, being nice, or saving our planet. This also excludes the arts, PE, music, and library programs. (I wholly support the arts, music, PE, and the library programs and believe if these were deleted the children would suffer grievously.)

The homogenized classroom is full. This usually means between 23 and 25 kids in a classroom in grades k thru 3rd and in 4th and 5th grade there may be 30 kids in a classroom. I’ve seen a classroom of 22 fourth-grade kids split up and the teacher reassigned to a different school. This is to justify the numbers and the monies allowed per teacher and classroom per campus. I will explain how I know this first hand in another blog.

The average child can read and write by the second grade. In  a classroom of 25 children there will average ten children who are far ahead of everyone else in ability and there will be ten children who are far below the other children’s ability. That leaves about five children who get it and are able to keep up with the upper ability kids. The children who are ahead are loaded down with busy work. While the teacher is re-teaching the other children, they must work on that busy work. By the second grade most of these kids have figured out that what they have been given is busy work. These smarties are likely to race ahead, finish everything and then proceed to disrupt the entire classroom. They are bored. Bored children are not well-behaved children. At this point they are not able to figure out on their own that there are other things to accomplish, other books to explore, other concepts to delve into. They are simply bored. This can carry on into middle school and high school. My experience has been that if a bright child in high school who is bored and who is not involved in sports will experiment with drugs, just saying.

This homogenization of children might have seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, we certainly don’t want any children with low self-esteem(!). But the problem is that the process only created more specialization teachers to be trained for pulling out the low-ability children, and do you not think these children KNOW that they are not the same as the other children. Of course they do. They may not be able to do the math or the language arts but they sure as heck know that they can’t keep up. And what about the self-esteem of the brighter children who now must get fussed at for bothering the rest of the class because they are finished with their busy work?

Don’t you just love that your children are the guinea pigs being used for all sorts of educational experiments?

After my children went through one of the country’s top-rated school districts (and the most culturally diverse) the only thing standing between them and a good college education was their lack of education and the ability of their mom and dad to write a check.

I will write more about gifted and talented and the special needs children in public education at a later date.