Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Ruin School

I've been a teacher for more than 20 years, and the majority of those years have been spent teaching gifted kids.  I spent a lot of time finding lessons, materials, and activities that challenge those kids, so I don't think I am a stranger to the concept of a rigorous curriculum.  In fact, I think a rigorous curriculum is incredibly important.  The Common Core promises more rigor.  I'm not convinced it does; I'm not convinced it doesn't.  I like the sound of the standards, but there are so, so, so many of them, and some of them are really unrealistic, and it is impossible for one subject area teacher to actually cover them all thoroughly in a school year.  I'd love to wait and see what happens while these standards are implemented; let's see if the rigor really is there.

But what I know I definitely don't like about the CCSS is the way they are used to regulate Every. Damn. Thing. that happens in a classroom or a school.

Case in Point #1: Students write letters to Santa according to CCSS standards.  Come on!  This is a childhood rite of passage!  It's supposed to be fun, a fantasy, a dream!  It's not meant to be an exercise in correct argumentative writing form.  By sucking the fun out of activities like this that are rooted in fun, there is no joy left in learning.  Learning is purely utilitarian.  Can't there ever be a time when something the kids do at school can be just because?????

Case in Point #2: Bathroom breaks can help students do better on the tests that will come about as a result of CCSS.  Now, there has been some kerfluffle over the headline for this story being sensational, but to me, the point is this: nobody wants to lose instructional time because kids need to go to the bathroom.  Having scheduled bathroom times is common in elementary schools, but the suggestion that an entire class of students all finish with their bathroom activities in five minutes being timed with a stop watch is ridiculous!  And the idea that having kids use bathroom passes and writing down departure and arrival times to give extra practice in hitting the CCSS about telling time -- both analog and digital -- is preposterous!  Now we are taking a function of nature -- going to the bathroom -- and tying it somehow to CCSS.  When will someone, anyone with a scoche of influence stand up and publicly announce -- ENOUGH!

If adopting the CCSS means everything that happens in a school turns in to an exercise to learn the standards and prepare for the tests, education is going to be in need of overthrow, not just overhaul.

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