PBS ran TEDTalksEd last night. It got me all fired up in so many good ways. I simply love education and have had the good fortune of fantastic teachers and mentors in my life. None of these folks stuck to the curriculum. None adhered to the test or mandates. All of them made a profound impact on me. I was blowing up twitter last night too while I watched this. I share the collective thoughts of the show in tweets.
For the first time in my career in education, I would not want to send my own child to public school and it’s not the fault of the teachers in that building, it’s the mandates from state and government that keep coming down, testing them to death. I work with phenomenal teachers every day who want to throw the test out of the window and go back to problem based, inquiry based, and learning through ‘failing’ in the protected sense that it’s school, the perfect place to make mistakes. By teaching our kids they can’t fail in school, we are teaching them NOTHING about real life. We are FAILING THEM every day.
Learning doesn’t end when the last bell rings. Learning should extend into the afternoon and evening. Our culture has grown to say that “school should take care of everything” and it SHOULD NOT. Is everyone doing a “bad job?” Hell no. But being a slave to a test, living in fear of getting fired based on a test score, and working on raising young adults is too much for our teachers as a whole. The retention rate has decreased from seven to five years for a reason and it’s not because the health insurance benefits have changed.
As part of teacher appreciation week, this was well timed and poignant to me as an educator, especially since I finished meetings at 9:30 p.m. last night and got home right as this program began. It had me all excited and I didn’t sleep well, side effect of passion I suppose! 😀 Below is my list of educators and mentors that have nurtured me along the way.
My parents: the people who taught me what love and discipline are. They taught me how to give selflessly to others (and other things like animals) before I gave to myself. This quality has served me well until recently, when my boss keeps telling me to be less generous with my time. They raised me to be tough, to not take shit from anyone unless I was being a shit first, and to think clearly and carefully about my choices in life. While I haven’t always done this, I usually have gotten around to it at some point. I remind my parents that I won’t “get rich” with money by being in education, but the payment of hearing and seeing my former students live, learn, make mistakes, and accept challenges is a pretty amazing reward.
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Bandlow. Half day kindergarten was amazing. I remember playing, using my imagination, and learning how to read, count, and socialize with my peers. I remember cookies and milk were always the snack and if I played my cards right, I got chocolate milk. Mrs. Bandlow was always so kind, she taught me how to read, how to use phonics, and how to play the best ‘play house’ anyone could ask for. Half day kindergarten was where it was at circa 1985. And don’t you forget it.
My former teacher, Mr. Osterhout. He and I spent some time together. He was always there with the peanut m&m’s and a coke if the day had gone poorly. As an FFA advisor, you spend time with this person. You shape each other and they stay with you for life. Mr. O was a former football player with a temper, but also had a kind heart. His gentle pushes nudged me into leadership, teaching me how to command a room with my voice and presence, increased my knowledge and awareness of the world around me, and he helped me travel. By winning and competing in the FFA, I was afforded countless opportunities to travel. The contributions he made to our community surpassed anything that could have been done by one human and for all of his flaws, he never stopped caring.
The JOUR faculty at Morrisville State College. I also like to call this: “where I got a REAL education” because it was all hands on, classes were tiny, and you bet that these faculty got up in your grill if you weren’t walking the line. Brian, Neal (mrs. bandlow’s husband incidentally) and the rest of the crew pushed me to be a better writer, helped me land jobs, and gave me the practical education that I rely on almost every day. My AP style is probably still off and my editing skills are lacking, but the intangibles like watching the “breakfast club” and hanging out in the studio were priceless.
Finally, my phd adviser, who became my friend in real life. Boy, she put up with a lot from me and I still call on her to this day for her friendship.
Who would you give your appreciation to this week?