[PART 1] Is Education Ready For A Make-Over Or In Desperate Need Of A Do-Over?

Lately (and for more than a decade now) there have been a host of examples of teachers utterly dissatisfied with the public school system.

Teacher of the Year, Kim Cook, who was given an unsatisfactory grade from her school principal for one, a teacher who gave his video resignation via YouTube and Ed Komperda who wrote a lengthy post on “School Today…What they don’t tell you.”

Back in 2012, when I first launched my online program teaching teachers, homeschool parents and retirees (well, anyone interested really) how to start a tutoring business and grow it to 5 and 6-figures (if they wanted to), I started noticing a trend.

At first, I thought it was just a one-off.

A few disheartened, dissatisfied teachers and didn’t in any way, shape or form represent even a small minority of the profession, let alone the majority…

And then I took a recent trip down the rabbit hole and was shocked by what I found.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Kim Cook, a Teacher of the Year award winner, received an unsatisfactory grade from her school principal. [1]

Kim Cook 2012

And I thought, weird.

I saw her post, the articles written about her and wondered, how does that even happen? How can the district love her and her principal give her a less than awesome grade?

It’s like trying to give a kid an A and a D at the same time.

Now on two different tests, sure. And maybe there’s some rhyme or reason to it, I thought at that time, but seriously. It hit me as strange.

And then I remembered my second principal and how he just didn’t care for me and the methods I implemented in the classroom.

My way involved….

Caring too much? Maybe.
Being liked too much? Sounds funny, but could have been.
Never sending a kid to his office…? Possibly. Strange to think, but who knows!
Getting results…? Bizarre to consider, right? But it’s also possible.

As counterproductive as it sounds, sometimes it’s simply not good politics to be too good, too hard-working, too liked.

Good thing (for my students) I never much cared for politics of any kind.

I never did figure it out, why this principal went from being okay with me at first to handing me a pink slip at the end of the year, just as I handed him my notice of resignation.

So, personalities sometimes clash. I get it.

Perhaps that was the story for Kim Cook.

But then, still in 2012, there was this teacher who posted his resignation via a YouTube video and I thought, yikes a bit public, no? [2]

But then I pressed play and realized he wasn’t given the opportunity, in his opinion, to speak at a school meeting. So YouTube became his platform of necessity. And to that I say, Go, Rhode Island teacher, Mr. Stephen Round. Free speech matters, yo!

And then I saw a lengthy post by Ed Komperda on “School Today…What they don’t tell you” and I had to agree with a lot of what he had to say. [3]

I’ve also had personal discussions with educators in public and private schools who were disillusioned, and a few in private Christian schools ready to throw in the towel.

What is happening that is causing teachers to want out?

I watched a documentary about kindergarten today, created in 2017 by Dr. Marie Amoruso, a retired teacher and professor who studied at City University of New York-Hunter College, Manhattanville College, and Teachers College of Columbia University. [4]

All that to say, I think she kind of knows her stuff when it comes to education and learning, as not only has she studied it, researched it, she’s also taught in an actual classroom.

During the 18 minutes of this video, where kindergarten aged children, engaged in learning, were filmed and teachers interviewed, I cringed.

Not once, not twice but throughout the entire film.

So much of importance has been removed from the classroom experience for small (and not-so-small students).

Why?

And I completely agree with a lot of what Dr. Amoruso said back in 2017, that kids simply aren’t being taught some fundamental skills and it’s harmful.

This lack of simple skills, and the importance of having them in the curriculum should be a no brainer. Yet, basics that are meant to teach students simple interpersonal skills, communication skills, and conflict resolution have been stripped away.

They are so far removed that it’s to the point where there is no understanding of how to communicate, resolve conflicts and hello, now we have bullying.

But really, it should be an of course we have bullying conversation simply based on what’s shown in this one video, which is a microcosm of one district, in one town of one state within this nation - the USA.

I decided to dig deeper (with the help from my trusty, right-hand researcher and everything Executive Assistant, Jessica - you know, the one who takes bribes) and discover if, in fact, the issues we face in education are as deeply rooted as I was starting to see.

It’s a challenge, yes, if the challenges within our educational system are as deeply problematic as say Sir Ken Robinson first spoke about in February 2006, in his now infamous TED Talk that went viral, and is totally worth 20 minutes of your day, than isn’t it time, we (as a nation and as a global society) wake up? [5]

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Now, if you want a visual explanation of exactly how our educational system works so you can see, as well as hear what’s working/lacking, this 12 minute video is a must play. In fact, I’d watch it a few times….and again just now.

And I see something striking. Our paradigm for education is based on limitation. Teaches limitation. But be your own judge. Press play now.

Changing Educational Paradigms

This RSA Animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award. The RSA is a 258 year-old charity devoted to driving social progress and spreading world-changing ideas. [6]

I firmly believe that if we start talking about the challenges we face, not from a place of blame (of government, of districts, of tests, of teachers, of lack of discipline in the home) and instead dive in from a different perspective, on a different level, we can, together, discover new solutions and opportunities that can elevate us.

Albert Einstein said…

We cannot solve our problems
with the same thinking
we used when we created them.

Love that quote!

So, even though it used to be against my nature to rock the boat, at least too much, I’ve decided to step out, step up and do it now in the hopes that this article, this site, this work, my words will spark dialogue that will facilitate change, excitement and fresh ideas that lead us toward revamping what’s broken.

Because it’s broken when this happens...

“A former middle school teacher is claiming she was fired from her teaching job for refusing to give credit where it’s not due.” [7]

Angela-Watson

I read Angela Watson’s story about leaving (quitting) her teaching job mid-year and I totally understood. [8]

Angela was physically sick, as was a woman Jenn I recently (as of publication in early 2019) met in a Facebook coaching group, whom also left her teaching job due to illness brought on by stress.

And it’s not just in the USA that teachers are disheartened and leaving the profession.

In England, a teacher up and resigned after 17 years, leaving behind a $52,000 salary (currently that’s nearly $68,000 USD). She was quoted as saying, “I love the kids and teaching but I cannot maintain this for another 20 years. I’d break. They’d take me out of there in a box.” [9]

A poll conducted by the National Education Union in England (NEU) said that four-fifths of respondents [those who were served] say increased workload is leading them to think about leaving [the] profession. [10]

More than 80% of respondents said in another poll circulated by the NEU that they were thinking about other careers because of the long hours now required of classroom teachers. [11]

But it’s not just long hours, because if you think teaching is a 7-3pm endeavor, at least in the US, think again. There are papers to grade, lesson plans to draft up and hours upon hours of needed learning of new methods in order to stay current or even in more and more instances, compliant in the classroom.

Take this article written in the Orlando Sentinel where Debbie Nostro of Grand Island was a seventh-grade language-arts teacher for 27 years at the same middle school in Orange County who left due to four specific reasons.

“I left because the passion was gone, and it wasn't fun anymore.”

Debbie was quoted as saying the four deciding factors for her were Common Core, Creativity, Reading and Discipline. [12]

It’s worth quoting Debbie and this article directly instead of paraphrasing her words.

“Common core was designed to create a more rigorous curriculum. There are no longer average classes. The test scores resulted in some students being put into honor classes, and they can’t even read on the grade level. Too many students could not rise to the occasion due to the strenuous requirements. It is difficult to challenge the higher-level students in a class when others are so far behind. Teachers are required to make certain all students pass, resulting in watering down the curriculum for lower-level and special-need students.

These modifications do need to be made. However, everyone takes the same state test. The curriculum left little time for learning for enjoyment. There was only “teach to the test,” and, honestly, it became boring and tedious.”

Creativity: Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” We assume that all students are headed to college and approach education in this manner. What about students who have creative minds and need outlets to explore and discover? Allowing creativity in my classroom had become obsolete. If the evidence wasn't there and you couldn't prove it, it was wrong. I used to tell my students to “think outside the box.” But I haven’t said that in two years.

Oh boy. Can I just say, if was a student in today’s classroom, I’d have failed out already without a touch of creativity to lighten my day?!

Reading: I pushed this diligently on my students, personally purchasing more than 1,000 books that would hook them on reading. The reading privilege was a reward. Homework was to read 20 to 30 minutes each night, and take two to three reading quizzes each nine weeks for a percentage of their grade. So imagine my shock when I was told two years ago that "Orange County doesn't have time for students to read in class.”

What is wrong with this picture? My state test scores plunged for the first time. I attribute much of that to failure to improve their reading skills. Data have proved that reading does make you smarter. Why not let students read for the pleasure of reading?

Ah, to answer her Q at the end, all I can muster is to shout AMEN, Sister!

Discipline: You know those YouTube videos you see about problems in the classroom? They are real. I always prided myself on good classroom management. For the first time ever, students would tell me no and refused to abide by the rules. Nothing worked.

I taught my students about unconditional love. Kids need to be held accountable for their actions. No human being deserves the verbal abuse that many teachers are experiencing, not just from students but also from parents. The truth is that teachers are powerless today. There are many wonderful, respectful students who are there to learn and outstanding parents who are supportive. This is the group that keeps teachers going.

Debbie’s comment about “teachers are powerless today” is a solid and valid point. And what happens when one feels powerless? They leave.

Feeling powerless is disempowering and no one grows, learns or is happy in this kind of environment.

And then take the article Why Teachers Quit where the author, Kay Bisaillon, also a teacher, talks about her friend who’s been teaching for 20 years and is on the verge of leaving. “She is tired of trying so hard, in so many ways, and still feeling as if she is losing the battle. She is losing faith that she is and can make a difference.” [13]

Now, if that right there doesn’t tell us that something is broken with our current educational model, all you have to do is jump to where the USA and other countries rank on both national scales and globally in the scheme of three most often talked about core subjects - science, math, and reading.

Quick hint.

The USA isn’t in the top twenty when it comes to global ranking. We rank in on the global scale at… well, see for yourself in Part 2 of Is Our Educational System Ready For an Upgrade or In Need of a Do-Over?

Did some part of this article trigger you? Make you think? Or perhaps bang your head against the wall? Well, I suggest an open discussion right here and no.

No sense getting a headache, so leave a constructive comment, a fresh thought, a new idea and become part of the solution today.

And if you enjoyed this read, be sure to heart it below and share it over on social.

Remember, learn something today that you can share with someone tomorrow.


Referenced in this Read

[1] Washington Post. A ‘value-added’ travesty for an award-winning teacher. Valerie Strauss. 12.03.2012
[2] HuffingtonPost.com. Stephen Round, Providence Teacher, Quits Over Standardized Testing In Viral You. 12.18.2012
[3] Facebook Post. Ed Komperda. School Today…What They Don’t Tell You. 10.09.2012
[4] VIDEO - DOCUMENTARY. More Than A Score. Dr. Marie Amoruso. 2017.
[5] VIDEO. TED TALK. Do Schools Kill Creativity? Sir Ken Robinson. February 2006.
[6] VIDEO. TED TALK. YouTube Version. Changing Educational Paradigms.
[7] People.com. Florida Teacher Claims She Was Fired for Giving Zeroes to Students Who Didn't Turn in Homework. Karen Mizoguchi. 11.02.2018
[8] TheCornerstoneForTeachers.com. Why I quit my teaching job mid-year (no, it wasn’t the testing). Angela Watson. 2012.
[9] TheGuardian.com. ‘Every lesson is a battle’: Why teachers are lining up to leave. Emma Kell. 04.10.2018
[10] TheGuardian.com. Vast majority of teachers considered quitting in past year – poll. 04.01.2018.
[11] TheGuardian.com. ‘Every lesson is a battle’: Why teachers are lining up to leave. Emma Kell. 04.10.2018
[12] OrlandoSentinel.com. Teaching was my life. Then I quit. Here's why. Debbie Nostro. 02.15.2017
[13] TeachThought.com. Why Teachers Quit. Kay Bisaillon. 10.30.2017

Education Lady | Jill Stevens

Educator. Writer. Life Long Learner. Jill has a passion to help the next generation and improve learning across the board. She’s here to change the world, one mind at a time. Right now she does that through words with purpose and by training up remarkable, rockstar tutors.