Education Nation is NBC's attempt at fixing the American education system. We'll talk about it, invite in all the best and brightest (except educators, but let's not go there now) and find all the solutions. So I watched the Teacher Town Hall on Sunday with bated breath. We even cancelled Conversations so it wouldn't interfere with the Town Hall meeting. What did I hear? Same old, same old. Get rid of bad teachers, get rid of tenure, throw money at the system, be more equitable in educating our children. How are we going to do that? Ummmmmm. Yeah.
Now, I'm not saying I have all the answers. In fact, I'm not saying I have any answers. But I do know what I want for my child and my students. I do know what I want for my future leaders.
1. I want my students to want to learn. I want them to love coming to school, not wanting to run out or run home at the end of the day.
2. I want school to be more available. Does someone need help finding a quiet place to do homework? Stay in school until it's done. Need more time to finish up a project? Come in early. Don't have a working computer at home and want to blog about a class? Come to school early or stay late and use the school computers.
3. I want homework to be only what is necessary to complete a project. It should not be homework for the sake of homework. It should not be homework given because the teacher ran out of time to cover all the curriculum. It should be work the child wants to do to prepare for his group the next day. It should be work she wants to finish because she was working on a problem she couldn't put down.
4. No tests. Assessments should be meaningful and directly related to learning. The children should be assessed on how they work, as well as what they learn. And all assessments should be used to further instruction, not to penalize a child or put a grade on a report card.
5. I want children to move through school as they are ready. Not pushed because the year is over. Not held back while all their friends move up. Doing advanced math in first grade? Work with children who are on the same math level...not necessarily first graders.
6. I want all children to feel successful. That does not mean I do not want all children challenged. School should be challenging...but in an exciting, enriching way, not in a boring, nerve-wracking way. But we need to find ways to allow children to express their understanding in a variety of ways. And we need to find a multitude of ways to allow children to access information. Disabilities do not always relate to intelligence. But in our school system, it sure seems like it does. Let's get rid of this idea.
7. Along with #6, I want children to be compared to themselves, not other students their age. How much progress has the child made in reading, math, writing, social skills? Compared to last year? Compared to two months ago?
7. I want all learning to be integrated and periods to be untimed. Learning should not be done by the clock. If you are engaged in a massive math project and just have to work a bit more on it before you stop for the day, then, by all means, go right ahead. That's not to say there shouldn't be things that all children learn at some point (curriculum) but let's keep the curriculum broad and based on how to learn, more than facts.
8. I want, I want, I want. I just know school can be better. I want my daughter to bounce home every day excited by what she learned. Instead, she comes home each day telling me what an awful day she had. I want my students to know that, when I am kicking them out at the end of the day, it is only because the bell has rung and buses are waiting, not because I don't want them to stay. I want to love every second of school, not keep saying "Oh, time for a state test now" and "No we can't keep reading our books because we have to go on to math." I love math but sometimes we really don't want to switch subjects. We are too into blogging, or reading, or working on projects, or solving math problems, or playing a game, or....
I know what I want. But I have been stuck inside this box so long that I can no longer "think outside the box" to find solutions. Can you? I don't think NBC can.
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