Teachers, Students…Relax

I seem to come to this idea (generally) quite often whether discussing adolescent sleep behaviors or the toll planning and assessing can take on a passionate and engaging teacher (one not willing to recycle or resort to canned curriculum — or even those poor educators who feel manipulated and forced to recycle or used canned curriculum). Either way, it is obviously of utmost importance.

Where is the balance in education? Students (in traditional school settings) spend 7 hours taking in new information 5 days a week. This information is nearly always inert and disassociated from students’ lives. It is delivered non-stop from the moment the bell rings signaling the beginning of class (a la “bell ringers”) to the moment class is over (a la “exit slips”). Every educator seems pressured and pushed to cram as much seemingly erroneous information into a child’s mind while simultaneously finding the time to make sure that child understands and remembers all the new information. It’s like some freakish equivalent to the chubby bunny game. How many banal facts can be stuffed into a student with them saying in the end “I understand”? It’s nauseating (both the chubby bunny game and the act of bell ringers/exit slips).

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Google “bell ringers” and see what you find. Here is one of my favorites — paraphrased: Need a good bell ringer? Try making fun and engaging lessons regarding vocabulary! So much of this is incendiary (philosophically and semantically). This idea is asserting that teachers simply haven’t tried. That’s why no one is interested. Try trying and see what happens. Furthermore, the people promulgating these ideas actually believe you just have to make science vocabulary fun and everyone will care. This idea suggests the education being delivered to students is so useless and erroneous that without being disguised as something fun it holds zero weight. There’s our first issue. If you have to disguise the learning, maybe we should look at the content, not the delivery. I know this is sounding as though I value absolutely no part of education — which is untrue — but the point needs to be made. Things that need to be disguised are usually a necessary evil (e.g., taking gross medicines, getting vaccine shots, euphemisms for death, etc.). Do we really want our children believing that learning (like getting a cavity filled), is an often pain inducing, boring, and fearful experience that simply has to happen, or else?

I’m too far off track here. The point from the get-go was balance. Yes, students are constantly pummeled with information and work, and then they are sent home with more work and more information. When are they decompressing? When are they actually marinating on the information that has been received? Are they ever actually thinking about it or putting it into practice? Or, is it really all for not? It’s a series of chaptered out flash cards littered with facts that bear no real meaning made for a test that is created by an organization for profit. Day after week after month after year. It’s truly punishing and ineffective.

Teachers…it’s just the same. Children are the cups, information is the liquid, teachers are the pitchers expected to pour constantly from sun up to sun down. Then, these same teachers are expected to continue studying best practice, create meaningful lesson plans, make all the mandatory and compulsory learning fun, reflect on the process, be engaged in PD, and maybe even have a family at home. (I dare someone to say, “But teachers get summers off!” Do your research. How many teachers are spending their summers preparing for the next year? Working another job to compensate for the low pay plus student loans? Even better, do you really believe it’s okay to suggest that even though a person is working nearly 17 hours a day 9.5 months of the year, they have 2.5 months to spend with family? Ugh…you probably also think 6 weeks of maternity leave is too much…). Either way, again, where is the balance? Also, yes, in this analogy teachers are the pitchers pouring liquid in the cups (students), but teachers are also being poured into constantly as well. It’s truly a vicious cycle.

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This cycle is unnecessary. Time and time again studies suggest how ineffective the traditional model is. Cram, pass/fail, forget. This is an ugly model that suggests learning is no different than getting a tetanus shot. Even worse, getting 100 tetanus shots 5 days a week. The mental health of everyone in this cycle suffers, and it is not necessary. To be a progressive, engaging educator who focuses on real world/student centered projects means you actually have to ive up a lot of the time you may normally spend creating / lecturing / assessing / scolding / bell ringing / etc. Instead, the students are now spending their time on creating / maintaining / justifying / etc. their own work. It is quality over quantity. It is depth over breadth. You absolutely won’t get to all of your content, but the content will be engaging because the children made it their own. The learning is fun because it’s learning.

How many times did your dad or mom or uncle or aunt or whoever tell you your music was no good? It’s not the real music they listened to back in their day. How many times did you comply saying: “Wow. You must be right because that’s what you did so now I will do the same thing and not think for myself!” I’m betting the numbers aren’t equivalent. Learning is the exact same. Why do we continue to repeat a broken and ineffective system? Because that’s what we were a part of and if it’s good enough for us…you get the point. Why is To Kill a Mockingbird the classroom read yet again? Not because it deals with perspective, aggression, racism, etc. Thousands of novels deal with these themes. Books such as this — lessons such as these — are repeated because it’s easy. It’s what we were taught. It’s what we know. That doesn’t make it right.

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Students don’t need to feel constantly overwhelmed. Teachers don’t need to constantly feel on the verge of quitting their jobs. There can be a balance. But first, you must accept that the current model isn’t going to produce this balance. There must be a change made, and you can make that change. Don’t know where to start? Check us out — we’re here to help: Human Restoration Project.

One more thing…pay teachers more.