I am a teacher. It’s my job to encourage children. It’s my job to show them how exciting it can be to ask great questions, to formulate solutions, to work with other students in order to find a new way to solve a problem.
I am a teacher.
An aging, out of fashion, “so-how-many-years-do-you-have-left” teacher.
It’s my job to encourage the big ideas. Its my job, as far as I can tell, to foster creativity in my students. You know, to help them to look for the big picture, to “think outside of the box”, to come to the meaningful conclusion. To find the creative solution.
To be “Twenty first century thinkers”, in the jargon of the day.
But I am really having trouble doing that.
You see, current practice in teaching has us breaking every skill down into its tiniest, most discrete parts, and assigning a value and a competency score to each.
Reading used to be about enjoying a novel, thinking about the characters, talking about the plot, and then moving on to the next good book.
Now reading is all about breaking every sentence into its component grammatical parts. It is about finding a personal connection to every character, every event, every conclusion. Reading now requires that the student stop every page or two to write out a sticky note in which he explains how this sentence from this book relates to the conversation that he had with his grandma three weeks ago. Or how it reminds him of the book that his Uncle Billy read to him last winter. All tree, no forest.
Writing used to mean taking a pen and a notebook and scribbling a fabulous six chapter mystery story, filled with villains and bad dialogue and misspelled place names.
Now “writing”means filling out a “graphic organizer” that will carefully script each idea so that it fits the definition of writing that has been set out by the test makers. The format is scripted (Topic Sentence, Supporting Details, Conclusion) and the structure is predetermined. Pity the poor writer who tries to be original, for he shall score poorly on the rubric. Tree, tree, tree. No forest in sight.
Math used to be about developing a sense of how numbers work. It used to be about understanding the relationships between numbers. Math used to ask kids to solve problems. Now it is about place value and memorizing algorithms and learning multiplication as a completely separate entity from division. More trees.
Everything in the world of education seems to me to have been broken down into its tiniest component parts. We are teaching phonemes, not reading. We are teaching grammar, not writing. I feel like we are teaching numbers, not math sense.
We measure their spelling level, their reading comprehension level, their math level. We weigh every word, every syllable, every addend, every product.
We have become a land of trees and trees and trees. But we seem to have completely lost sight of the forest.
Wow. So sad.