Testing Doesn’t Equal Teaching

This isn’t a post about the trials and tribulations of high school, bullying or teen sex, but it is about education. There is a problem in and outside of our schools.

On the inside, it feels like our educators have stopped caring about teaching our kids and are instead relying on regurgitating information, assigning projects,  dishing out homework and relying heavily on the outcome of a test to determine whether or not they’ve retained enough information to shuffle on to the next step of life. And that’s bullshit, because it is easy to memorize things long enough to answer twenty-five questions but it’s harder to keep that knowledge the minute you walk put the door of a class you care nothing about.

I’m not saying it’s all teachers. It’s not even most teachers. It is, however, enough to be an issue. There should be a focus on engaging the students instead of relaying to them. The best ones are the ones fresh out of college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to exercise their ideas to get the kids as excited about the subject as they are. I got one of these my freshman year of high school and it’s the reason why if I ever decided to take up university, it would be to become an educator.

My junior year AP Language and Compositions teacher was the same way. He found humorous ways to convey information. He listened to the kids and displayed remarkable patience. He interacted with us and shared with us his own experiences and work.

My Creative Writing teacher was an aspiring poet and during and after class, he encouraged us to share our work. He helped us and helped us help each other. He encouraged us to story-weave and world-build as a group.

But then there are those educators who are just going through the motions. And it is a hard job. You’ve got pressure from the government, from the school district, from parents, from jack-off bloggers like me, and – most importantly – from the very kids you’re expected to prep for life as an adult. It’s difficult to not just go through the motions and do the bare minimum and I applaud the teachers who go to school every day and do put in that extra work.

It is inspiring to see teachers write into the paper and explain that they are doing their damndest with what minimal resources and pay that they have. Because for every teacher who gives up and goes day to day and spits the rhetoric just to collect the paycheck, there are ten who are still passionately doing it for the kids.

Which brings us to the problem outside the school: LOOK AT THIS SHIT. That is from May 20th of this year. DRASTIC cuts in education budgets almost across the board to the point that it is worse than before the recession.

And what are we focusing on? Paying our teachers more?  Nope. Why is it that, well, look:

image

What the fuuuuck? Come on!

Now, I do have some good news. The rate of high school dropouts as been steadily on the decline for several years, with 7.9% as of 2013. The bad news is we’re still ranked 10th in high school attainment.

Do you know who runs the greatest risk of dropping out of high school? Kids from broken homes.

The high school I went to consistently has between 1,600 and 1,800 kids in grades 9-12. Do you know how many counselors they have?

Four.

Four counselors to help with class issues, college assistance, issues with teachers and other students, and the occasional stresses and problems at home. Four people.

So for a few years, they hired two more. These two people were specifically hired to help those in danger of failing out of school. These were the kids who liked to fight, who liked to party, who felt ashamed and alone at school,  who came from homes that were broken and abusive and had absentee or addict parents. For many of them, it was the first time someone had actively given a shit about them. And a significant amount of them began to graduate because of it.

I spoke about it a school board meeting. I talked about the importance of keeping those people around because removing them meant directly affecting the kids who needed them most and who needed to be convinced staying in school was worth it. I said that taking those two counselors away would be failing the kids we’re supposed to be helping and encouraging. I emphasized that four people are not enough to help 1,800 confused kids.

Guess what? It didn’t do shit. Those crisis counselors were let go because they were considered an unecessary budget expense. Because people are too focused on guaranteed graduations and high school GPAs and focusing on the easy kids instead of trying to lift up the troubled ones.

Do I have any answers? I don’t know. Nothing quick and easy. I guess this:

Talk about this. Make an issue of it. Go out and vote for increased education budgets. Quit giving so much shit to teachers as a whole and take teachers who aren’t taking their jobs seriously to account (as you would any employee at any job).

If you’re a teacher, don’t just talk at your students. Don’t just lecture and give them problems to solve. There isn’t depth there. For kids with short attention spans (like me) or troubled home lives or who aren’t as interested in math or science or english or history as they are other subjects,  you need to find a way to keep them engaged. If learning is fun or interesting, it’s easier to retain information.

And if you’re an educator who is doing that currently, and there are many of you, good fucking job. Keep doing what you’re doing. You have my undying respect, gratitude and support.

When a community gives up on educating and supporting the children of the community in exchange for bare-bones “education” and grading, it gives my nerves a test as wracking as any I took in high school.

I scored an F. You can guess what that stands for.

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