The time comes now; to discuss what schools teacher and districts are doing wrong. As you read this, bear in mind it reflects the experiences over several school districts in Texas and from my times both as full time teacher, and as a substitute. I want to emphasize that most teachers are doing an excellent job, and so are most school districts. Sadly, though, the culture of schools and teachers is changing reflecting society. Remember, one of the biggest problems teachers face is being forced to do the parent’s work, which is to teach kids manners, respect and instill in them a desire to be educated. When a person runs into these areas, he or she should be ready to take it up with the teacher and the school board.
One major problem is that many people who teach teaching have not been in a classroom for years. It would really be nice if every four years or so, those teaching teachers could be sent back to the classroom. Teachers often get to see these marvelous techniques or teachers, yet are not informed that out of 15 years of teaching, these teachers only had great success one or two years.
Old ideas that failed keep coming back like a bad penny. Open concept schools, popular in the late sixties and earlier seventies failed miserably. Why do they keep coming back?
Schools also seem to have lost the knack for vocational education. Back in the early seventies, kids took two out of four in junior high, wood shop, metal shop, mechanical drawing or homemaking. Whether the kids used it in life or not, it was good they learned to do things with their hands. Also, many schools had excellent vocational programmes for high school. Conroe High School for example had a vocational school across the street where students could study computer programming, mechanics, auto body, air conditioning, beauty shop, etc. Kids taking these classes (which were often two to three hours) would take basic math, or math aimed at their vocation, and basic English, science and social studies. The programme worked and worked well. At the same time kids were divided into three levels depending on their skills. Again the system worked, so why has it disappeared? (and I note that my kid’s class on introduction to auto repair has yet to pick up a wrench)
Another systemic problem, why did we go to seven classes a day. Six classes worked well, and didn’t overload the student. Students today seem to be learning more, but are not learning in depth. Major problem.
Other problems in education are vacation. Those school districts that take extra days off, or a week for Thanksgiving, do they realise that this puts a hardship on many parents?
Now to more general problems. Teachers are over using the DVD in class. I was often annoyed because on Friday, when we went to rent movies, my kids had already seen them in school. This happened frequently and in two school districts. Also we are not talking about historical or learning films, but films like Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Many teachers today, instead of taking their work home (like I did) would put the kids to watching movies while the teachers did their work. This of course is happening because it is easy. When I was in school, movies meant projectors, films that the school had to pay for, so teachers did their job and took grading home. Not only is this a terrible waste of educational time, it teaches the kids a bad lesson for the workforce. Now there is nothing wrong with using DVDs for legitimate purposes. In teaching geography and history, we would use Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story to teach cultural geography, and movies like Amistad to set the stage in teaching history. There are lots of good films which can be used, but Finding Nemo is not an educational film.
In high school there too are serious problems. I hear more profanity than I ever heard shipboard in the average high school classroom. Being a sub, I am frequently unsure of exactly where it is coming from, but teachers need to crack down on it. Also if the school has rules, they need to be uniformly enforced by all teachers. Why is it, when subbing at 7th period, I am still sending kids to the office for not having their mandatory student ID? Can it be that none of the five teachers that saw the kid earlier did not notice? Same with dress code. At 7th period, still sending kids out of dress code to the office, mostly young girls with their breasts half way hanging out of their blouse (parents, how could you let your girl go out of the house like that, don’t you know that if your daughter dresses like a prostitute that is exactly how the boys will treat her?) Why is it that the administration tells the teachers, third offense we will suspend the kid, and the teacher has sent them to the office five times, yet they have never been suspended?
Another bad problem in high school is the use of cell phones. As a sub, I frequently threaten to take up cell phones, and it just doesn’t work. We need to push a law to permit schools to have cell phone blocking equipment. Companies do fire people for using cell phones on the job. I myself have fired employees for it. Our students really need to learn that discipline, and teachers and schools need to be ready to take those phones up.
This leads to another problem. This is worse in small school districts, and that is the incorrigible student. This is the student whose sole purpose is to disrupt. He is best removed from the classroom (or classrooms) but isn’t because there is no place to send him, and if he is suspended the school will lose money. Eventually he is removed, but only after the class atmosphere has been totally damaged.
There is also the problem of teaching to the test, but also a problem of not covering the basics. Kids who have to take remedial classes in junior college should not exist. Schools need to set standards so this does not happen. Kids should not be getting a diploma if they cannot multiply. People should not be wasting time in junior college learning skills they should have learned in school. It is time that this issue was addressed once for all.
As stated before. Most teachers do a good job. They need to be encouraged in that, but also need to be encouraged to enforce the rules. In many ways they are preparing our kids for higher education, or vocations or both. When they do not do a good job, parents need to be ready to address the issue, as does society.