Please read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading further, otherwise the following will not be in context.Well my time with my master teacher yesterday morning lasted for a much shorter time than it is taking me to write these blog entries. They have been much longer than I ever expected them to be, I have re-written this final part 5 times and still cannot find the words to properly express or explain the shift that this simple yet profound “chance” encounter had upon me.
While I was reflecting on my conversation with this master teacher “to change the world”, it occurred to me that much of our conversation could have been about me, except I certainly wasn’t the bosses kid (I am the oldest of six kids of a very working class family, which had many of the same difficulties that families are facing today). In school, I did good enough to get by, and didn’t put a whole lot of extra effort into academics. Below is a copy of my high school transcript:
Why am I showing my transcript – just to prove what I am saying is accurate and to show myself that I actually I wasn’t a particularly a good student – in high school (unlike the image that I sometimes attempt to erroneously portray) mostly D’s, C’s & B’s and a few A’s until my senior year when I opted out of the college prep program and into the vocational program, my grades reflected my academic interests.
I did a lot better in the Vocational Program because I was doing stuff I liked, learning skills that I still use to this day. By my senior year my interest in academics and school were not even a top ten priority. I was more interested in earning money to keep an old 1971 Ford Torino on the road, so that I could chase my other main interest – girls. So while the pressures of daily living may be different, academically, I was not all that different then many of our students today. Based on my academic “success”, my guidance counselor (a future Maine State Representative) was relieved when I opted to the Vocational track (after failed attempts in physics and Adv. Biology), I had less behaviors and would have actual work experience to fall back on, because “everyone” knew I wasn’t going to college after graduation.
Our present leadership views that preparing all students for going to college is the answer to our educational crisis and improving our country’s ability to compete globally. That is how they became successful and that is how they see present students should do it too. But to me they are not looking at “my world” objectively they are seeing it through the filter of having only college educated staff, who also are involved in “we speak”.
I question where are the voices of those who are not college educated and can provide a different perspective than the “we speak” that is happening in educational leadership today. They are not hired as staff members, (they don’t have the necessary qualifications – a college degree that is a pre-requisite to be considered for a staff position). They are mostly silent, because they have been taught that unless they are college educated that their voice is not as important as those that do. So they don’t speak up and sit quietly and watch the world pass them by and hope that life will be better for their children. This is unfortunate as I learned so well yesterday with my master teacher.
He gave a completely different perspective than the “we speak” crowd does or even the Edublogosphere. But many in leadership positions would “poo poo” his ideas as that of an uneducated person, that isn’t based on empirical research or “peer review” (more “we speak”), they are based on real world experience and just plain common sense.
Maybe it would be a novel idea to actually hire “real” people with differing backgrounds the trades, retail, etc. to work day-in-day-out (instead of serving on committees that meet infrequently) in equal numbers to the “we speak” crowd (please don’t get me wrong our current staffs are well intentioned, but they simply do not have the same perspectives as those who are not in the college track) and see what kind of ideas would come out of that kind of staff. I believe the plans from that type of staff might be more realistic than our current ivory tower college approach that currently leaves many of our students behind.
We currently measure our educational progress by how ready our students are for college — but not for life. My master teacher’s explanation of the rich bosses kid really hit home for me. How do we motivate students who are not interested in what our schools are presently offering them. It is pretty simple actually, change what we offer – easier said than done. But something that must be done we are loosing a generation of students.
I strongly believe that we need to challenge those students who are capable and able as much as we can and have high expectation of education for all. But that does not mean that all students are capable or interested in academic achievements – no they are not.
If a student wants to attend college, by all means a student should be allowed to prepare themselves for college and be given the means (money) to attend based on merit of their academic performance in a college preparatory program. But Educational and Political leadership must realize that not all students will do well in a college preparatory program and may be poorly suited for attending college and may need further or other assistance.
What about the many students who are not interested in college or furthering their education beyond what they have to. These students are more interested in getting out from under adult rules and guidance – whom they believe are running/ruining their lives for them. Next many are interested in finding a job or way to earn money. I know – I’ve been there and done that. Unfortunately, these students who have no interest in academics become a distraction or worse in the classroom, where 90% of teacher’s time and effort are spent on 10% of the students. So what do we do with them?
We need to provide an avenue of hope, training and real life skills in our schools. How do we accomplish for the majority of students. Focus our efforts on basic skills, reading, writing, math , science, arts, government and physical skills (not just PE), in the lower grades as we are. I honestly think that our schools do a really good job in grades K-6. Grades 7 & 8 are simply the most difficult ages to teach, too many hormones in the air and teaching these grades is a moving target day-to-day. Make technology an integral part of the curriculum, not just a nice to do add-on and then at the high school work on encouraging student interests. Encourage them participate in apprenticeship programs, work study, other vocational or even ROTC type programs.
After high school whether it be the traditional 4 year program or a modified 2 year plus program that has been discussed elsewhere on the web, students should be offered the opportunity, if not actively working in an apprenticeship program, for a form of national service, perhaps along the Americorps program lines or entry into the military.
This program would be expensive to initiate, but less expensive than our present system of drop-out, unemployment, social services entitlements or department of corrections involvement. But such a program would meet the needs of far more students today, than the idea that all students need to be prepared to go to college.
But in today’s reality, where the people in leadership are all college graduates, and they only see college as a simple best solution. They will continue to pour more money into higher education, even if it is not meeting a large part of the population’s needs.
They do not have a continuum of alternative possibilities that all of our country’s citizens will be able to access at different points along its spectrum. Instead all I keep hearing is how all students must complete so many standards, score such a score on a test and then go to college. Having only one solution is not a solution, there has to be a continuum of solutions or options for our students in and after high school.
Who am I to spout off like this – A “nobody”, someone that wasn’t a good high school student and like many of today’s students wouldn’t have be successful in today’s college prep high schools/high stakes testing. I am just one of the many who believes that he sees a great wrong being done to many of our students and wants education to consist of more than just meeting standards, taking standardized tests and being told that the only option to be successful is going to college. Are any of these ideas original, probably not, but they are my synthesis of my experiences over the last 32 years in and outside the field of education.
This has been a long and rambling and simplistic solutions to a multi-layered problem, but trying to tame my thoughts on this lesson that I learned yesterday from a master teacher has been difficult to wrap my head around the concept. Help me out here and explain my erroneous thinking. The conversation has to start somewhere, but I believe that this conversation has been started several times, but let’s try again.
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