Guiding our children to shine their inner LIGHT by being our absolute best!

Posts tagged ‘education reform’

Childhood is Too Precious to Ignore

 

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.  ~Graham Greene, The Power and The Glory

Childhood is a short period in our lives that begins at birth and ends at puberty.  According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, it is defined as; 1) the state or period of being a child. 2) the early period in the development of something.

Birth to puberty is not a very long time and yet it seems as though the span of childhood is diminishing right before our eyes.  Has anyone else noticed that children are not allowed or encouraged to be children in today’s society?

For some reason, we spend most of our time; ‘racing to the top’, expecting children to be mini-adults, and constantly doing this thing called life, instead of living life.

As a teacher and advocate for children I am appalled when I hear people say, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it.”

I question what is happening in our educational system when we are spending more time documenting our teaching than actually empowering and teaching our children.  I wonder just how terrific technology is when I walk into a restaurant, and see every person in the family on some type of electronic device.  I shudder when I notice that seven is the new nine during childhood and yet people are still saying, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

We complain that children don’t pay attention in schools.  We say that there is a terrible break down in the family, and we throw the word bully around like it’s a new catch phrase, but what are we doing to change these things?  We need to do something about it.  It’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity.

Looking at the current life span, you might conclude that childhood is somewhat insignificant in the whole scheme of things, because, let’s face it, it’s brief.  However, the truth is, childhood is the most critical time period of our entire lives.

When are we going to wake up and realize that we are pushing the most precious time of our lives right out the door?

I started teaching fourteen years ago.  I knew, even then, that I was different.  I had a holistic perspective on teaching where I believed that we should embrace childhood in the midst of educating, enlightening and empowering children.  I always felt that in order to be successful academically, you had to make a true connection with the children in front of you.  I strongly believe that you cannot teach the mind of a child, until you touch their heart.  I have spent fourteen years in the public education system teaching children to believe in themselves, speak their truth and LOVE learning.

Now, we are racing to the top and banging on the door of total catastrophe.  If we thought we had a bullying issue in America before this new plan in education came down the pike, we better buckle up because when you make a child feel inadequate, you bring out their fears and anger raises its ugly head!

A few weeks ago I was putting my 7 year old to bed.  We had just finished reading a story and he turned to me and said, “Mom, it’s just not fair. I don’t get it. I’m only in 1st grade and all we do is work, work, and more work.  We never even get to play!”  I looked into his eyes and took a deep breath.  I too teach 1st grade and I try my best to keep the fun alive, but it’s getting damn hard, even for me.  When my son spoke those words, I understood more deeply than he even realized that something BIG was going on here.  I realized that this is another dent in childhood.  I totally understood that we were trying to force our children to become human doings, instead of human beings at a very young age.

Of course! That’s exactly what’s going on because if we are human doings ourselves that’s exactly what we teach our children.

You know you’re a human doing when…

  • You have lists of things to do every day
  • You can’t even seem to put a thought together by the middle of the day because you’re already overloaded
  • You are constantly focused on what you have to get done
  • You forget simple things like brushing your teeth
  • You look at the clock and realize that it’s already bedtime
  • You look at your children and they are grown and you wonder where the hell the time went

Is this what we really want for ourselves? Is this what we really want for our children?

Childhood should be a time when we gain a strong foundation so that we can navigate the waters of life successfully.  If we continue to diminish childhood by expecting our children to act like mini-adults and do more, more, more, we are certainly headed for disaster.

Let children be children.  Children have a beautiful curiosity that is totally natural.  Why not tap into that to educate them?  And what is education anyways?  Instead of teaching children what we want them to know or what we think they should know, maybe we should we teach them how to think for themselves and speak their own truth?

If you asked me, I would say that childhood should be extended instead of diminished.  I’m really not sure why everyone wants to grow up so quickly.  What exactly are we running to?

I’m going back to being a kid and I suggest if you have children, teach children or care about children, you should tap into that energy too.

Childhood is too precious to ignore.  If it’s true that ‘there is always one moment in childhood that opens the door and let’s the future in,’ then let’s give the future some hope…

Teach children to believe in themselves, speak their truth, and above all BE.

 

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What Exactly Are We Teaching?

It’s the first full week of school in this part of New York.  Normally, this is a time of year where kids are excited to meet their new teacher, and their teachers are excited to start a new year and get to know their new students.  This year is a bit different…

As America looks to better their education system and rid the system of ‘bad teachers,’ we are seeing a system that is now based in fear.  Fear that our teachers are not teaching effectively.  Fear that our students are not getting enough out of their education.  Fear that there’s just not enough time in a day to teach what needs to be taught. Fear, that we, as teachers, are not enough.  Fear, fear, fear.

With all of this fear, we are now being driven to test our students ad nauseum.  I teach 1st grade.  Some kids are still 5 years old when they walk through the door.  Others will soon turn seven.  They are still babies in many ways, yet we are expecting them to sit and be tested for hours at a time before they have even had the chance to get to know their new teacher and the new routine.

This week, I watched as my children were forced to take several tests so that we could ‘show growth‘ by the end of the year (and the tests continue through this month).  It’s not the baseline test that upsets me.  I believe that we do, in fact, need some sort of baseline to see where our kids are at the start of the year and then again at the end of the year.  We wouldn’t be responsible educators if we weren’t measuring their growth and monitoring our instruction as we went through our year.  Any caring teacher knows that, and likely has devised their own tests or growth measures to be sure the children are in fact growing and learning.  What truly bothers me is not only how we are testing our children, but more importantly, how much we are testing our children.

The tests that we are administering to our students need to be ‘rigorous’, according to our system.  This week, I saw that rigorous apparently means, ‘so difficult that its hard for any student, even the brightest, to feel successful at the end of the test.’

This week, I taught my students to breathe deeply.  I empowered them with positive affirmations, and told them that these tests were only to tell me what to teach them through the year. Yet I still saw tears.  I still watched their breathing increase to a shallow, scared pant.  I still saw their spirits sink.  All of this because they look to us for guidance and they want to do well.  It breaks my heart that we have come to a point in education where we must begin our school year like this.

I believe that in order to truly teach effectively, we must educate the whole child.  I also believe, that in order to do that, we must touch their hearts before we teach their minds.

By welcoming our children to a new school year with test after test, we are simply allowing fear to drive our educational system.  Worse, we are giving our children the message right from the start that they are not enough.  What a terrible message to send to any person, much less a child.

I work hard to teach children to believe in themselves and speak their truth every day of my life.  This movement in education, although it started with good intent, is harshly off course.

If we truly want change in education, then we need to start educating from a place of love instead of fear.  The only way to do this is to utilize tests that show what a child ‘knows‘ at the start of the year (based upon prior learning), and what the child has learned by the end of the year.  That would certainly show growth, and it wouldn’t bruise their fragile view of themselves in the process by testing them on skills that they are expected to know by the end of the year.

I agree that we need change in education, but is this really the best change for our children? With all of the issues we face in society based around fear, such as; violence, depression, anxiety and the break down of the family, shouldn’t we be building our children up, instead of breaking them down?

I vote for letting kids be kids.  Give us, the teachers, the chance to welcome our students.  Give us the opportunity to embrace them and touch their hearts before we teach their minds.  If we continue on this path, no child will ever like school, nor will they truly be learning.  When we come from a place of fear, there is no love, and where there is no love, there is no trust.  Children need to feel loved, accepted and safe in order to thrive.  I don’t want my students or my son to simply learn in order to plot data.  I want my children to thrive.  How about you?