Man, I love working with them.
After retiring from a very full and rewarding teaching career a few years ago, I realized this week that the magic left my teaching career when I could not get my students to smile.
It had to do with bureaucracy, too much testing, and the inordinate amount of work expected to be completed, in the manner in which is mandated, and not by my own brain. Created in a cookie cutter manner by a panel of “experts” with outcomes in mind.
I served on a curriculum committee for 20+ years and I can accurately point to data to back up the claim that student performance began to slide when MEAP tests arrived in Michigan. It was this type of standardized learning that sucked the life out of productive and creative teachers. Scores that were often well above the national average, began to plummet.
Let's connect the dots...
I work for a youth camp during the day and serve my nonprofit working with intercity kids two afternoons a week. It sounds crazy that a retired teacher should work so hard in the summer, but let’s face the facts, when kids are allowed to be kids, magic happens.
The tasks of the classroom are removed and social and emotional strides are made in development that allow for success when school finally does start.
For instance, yesterday, at the Van Buren Youth Camp, the entire camp was engaged in a service project. It involved writing, drawing, rhyming, thinking, and empathizing with people in a nursing home in South Haven. When students were allowed to feel first, their productivity was light, creative, and crazy good.
Did the kids know that this was an exercise in many types of “schooly” stuff? Um no.
How do you teach empathy for math? Science? English?
Certainly, if kids are allowed to draw parallels from personal life experiences and they have some sort of emotional link to them, the likelihood of their engagement to continue is high.
When teachers have a chance to assess the group they are dealing with, the ability to match the group with the best techniques for them, results in outcomes better than gold. The chances for this to happen in our current education climate is difficult, and only those daring “rogue” teachers who make forays into creativity, actually meet the needs of kids.
Ask any teacher the reason why they enter the profession and they will say : ”I love working with kids.”
Ask them why they leave and they will say they never felt the connection with their classes.
It isn’t fun to deal with behavior problems, red tape, entitlement, over or under involved parents, unrealistic evaluations, etc.
If people at the top of US Education understood this, they would let the kids be kids and let the teachers be the teachers that are able to relate and teach these kids.
Yesterday, a camper came up to me and said he was a little homesick. I told him nothing can replace his home, but asked if a hug could get him through to Saturday when he would be going home. Yes, he told me, all I need is a hug.
I addressed his need for reassurance. He needed a little connection so he could go out to the GAGA pit happily. No textbook can give him that. No understanding comes from a computer, no matter how advanced the AI component.
Isn’t it time all of us who work with kids get a little love and understanding?
For kids are the only reason we are in this in the first place.
Thanks for listening.