I am an assistant in a Montessori classroom. For the first time in 15 years of teaching, I am working in a public school. As the school year comes to a close, I have to say, I am exhausted.
I know that I am not the best technical writer in the world. I use too many commas and don't always know which punctuation to use when being dramatic. But I do know how to teach. I know how to research what I teach so the kids get the facts and not an "I don't know" kind of answer. I never accept crappy work from students and I refuse to let them give up on themselves. I am always, ALWAYS, consistent.
Most of my students started this year with illegible handwriting and no knowledge of cursive. I would say 75% of them refuse to pick up a book and of that 75%, 50% do not have a passing ability to read. Many of them did not know how to format their papers when doing math and had no ability to infer anything from reading comprehension. They needed me to walk them through every single step to get to an answer when it came to a question that asked them to think for themselves. To say I was stunned is an understatement.
The thing is, who do we blame for this? Do we blame parents who refuse to parent? I have children who are falling asleep in class because they stay up until midnight texting and playing on the computer. Parents know their kids need to sleep, but they don't want to take their electronics away because they are afraid of their children's reaction. Some of my children are from other schools, and some of their records show that they perform at a much higher level then they actually do. Teachers out and out falsified information either to save their jobs or to keep the child moving forward in grade level. Most of my kids do not know their times tables or how to do dynamic addition or subtraction. Do I blame the government for implementing all the common core standards that seem to fail to allow children time to internalize these facts?
The thing that bothered me the most is the children who just absolutely refused to work or participate in a lesson. I have never had so many children just say no. They don't want to do anything hard. That is what they say, "It's too hard!" So they quit. If I had refused to participate in something at school I would have been punished at both school and home. Now, however, kids are allowed to opt out of their education and legally I can do nothing about it. Heck, we even have a parent who rewards this behavior by bringing her child a treat whenever the teacher tries to contact the parent over her child refusing to do the work!
I have spent this year teaching nothing but the basics. Hitting is not okay. The holes in the paper go on the left side. Simple addition and subtraction needs to be done in your head (or with Montessori materials), not on your fingers. Getting an answer wrong is okay as long as you tried. No, I won't just tell you the answer because it is easier than teaching you how to find the answer. I do not mind helping you over and over until it clicks. I will not yell at you for not getting it. No, I would never make you walk laps because you don't understand (Yes, I did have several students who had this happen.) Hard never hurt anyone. Reading IS important. YES, manners matter. No, you may not throw sticks at people. Because it hurts them, that's why! This assignment is not an option. I mean what I say and I say what I mean. Yes, I do use very big words around you. Why? Because language is important. No, I do not think you are stupid even if you don't understand. That's what I am here for, to help you understand.
I love my job and I love my kids. I think an education system that expects every single child to be college ready is a farce. I think that man who stars in "Dirty Jobs" is right. When did so called blue collar jobs become demeaning? When did it become realistic that every person had to perform at the the same level and be proficient in all the same skills? One of the smartest men I know never graduated high school but can build you anything you want, electrical, gas powered, what have you. So what if I can discuss philosophy with the best of them, I can't fix my toilet when something goes wrong.
Instead of creating well-rounded people, we are creating a bunch of kids who don't want to learn because they have been called failures because of test results. I know the importance of benchmark testing, but don't tell me the child who is creative and kind and socially well-rounded is dumb because they struggle with math. Give me TIME to teach them and they will get it, just don't expect it to be without giving them the basics first.
I think it is time to take back our children.