Tag Archives: Teacher

A Solution to the Lack of Education in American Public Schools

Demonstrates Proprio-Kinesthetic language learning
Demonstrates Proprio-Kinesthetic language learning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When addressing the issue of social reforms and added programs that have little to do with education and the “educational” experiments made on our children I didn’t even mention “whole language“. When my son began learning to read the district used something called “whole language reading” instead of phonics. The idea is that language is a system and a child can learn to recognize concepts faster if they learn whole words as units instead of breaking the word up into parts and pronouncing each individual letter.

The problem is that it doesn’t work.

My son is a college graduate with a good job in the oil and gas industry but he doesn’t find reading enjoyable. He tested into the gifted and talented program in kindergarten with his strength in math and science but the whole language system threw him off reading for life.

I believe a good foundation in phonics would have changed that outcome.

Having worked with special needs children for so many years, dealing with every level of every kind of special needs, I can say with some authority that whole language doesn’t work for the average or below average child. How can a child who can not distinguish between a letter and a number “get” an entire word? Phew! The BEST program I used for teaching children with reading challenges was a program called “Scottish Rite”. (This is nothing to do with “Free Masonry”.) It used phonics and the whole body (kinesthetic) to get a grasp of what each letter is and what it does and from there how it can be used. By “using the whole body” I mean that you teach the child to fully extend their arm and trace the letter in the air. You would be surprised at how well this teaches the proper direction of writing and reading.

So, what did the school district do? It pulled the Scottish Rite program out because “it costs too much.” What? That’s right. They pulled the only program that worked, thank-you-very-much! There was no substitute for what the program did. It was a series of lessons on video that we used in a quiet spot or empty classroom for one or two kids at a time. (It wasn’t as if they were paying me extra for it, so that wasn’t the problem.) I could remember what each lesson had been, so with permission, was able to continue teaching phonics in that way with great success.

I mentioned in an earlier blog that there is a simple solution to many of the problems in our public school system.

Parental involvement.

I don’t mean that parents should go up to their child’s school and yell at administrators for the problems they see with their child’s learning programs. That kind of action only causes ill will between parties and solves nothing. What I mean by parental involvement is more parents and grandparents and legal guardians getting their hands and feet dirty and volunteering.

Yes, I said it – volunteering.

When I worked in the school system I saw quite a few parents who the teachers called the “rabble-rouzers”, the “pit-bull team”, and other not-so-nice-descriptors, come up to the school to yell at the principal, their child’s teacher, and otherwise name-call. Then, they would leave. I never saw those particular parents actually volunteering, helping their child’s teacher in the classroom, or helping make the tons of little paper things that kids in Elementary need. It is one thing to call for a meeting such as an IEP meeting. (“Individual Educational Program” meetings, or ARDs where the IEP is developed for the child), it is another to yell at supposed “wrongs.” In a formal meeting (usually video-taped or recorded) where all the teachers, speech pathologists, special-needs teacher, etc are called together, the idea is to help figure out an ever-improving path of education for a child. This is a good thing, although once again this is a serious interruption of the educational process that should be taking place in the classroom, not to mention the ton of paper-work that comes with the IEP that  is then added to the teacher’s already over-loaded daily schedule. (A teacher must have a check list of modifications to implement on a daily basis for that individual child or two or more children. This takes special care to complete because it is a legal and binding contract under the child’s IEP.)

Parents and grandparents who came to the school on a regular basis rarely became angry at teachers, yelled at school principals, or declared that “my angel would NEVER do that!” when told of misbehavior. Parents who saw what went on in the classroom on a daily or even weekly basis were more likely to suggest improvements that were actually helpful, and to help teachers when real problems came up.

There is not enough good things I can say about parents and grandparents who take the time to volunteer.

But you can’t volunteer in your child’s school because you work full-time? For the majority of parents there is someone who they can trust to help them out. Even another parent of a child in the same class as your student could report back to you on a regular basis about the education (or lack of it) taking place. You can even take turns volunteering, just as you take turns with car-pooling your children.

How much better our educational system can become will not take more money thrown at it by a largely indifferent government. What it will take is more parents or caregivers getting involved in volunteering at their child’s school.

Volunteers make all the difference.

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.