Elementary, My Dears
My sister is one of my best friends. She's a smart cookie who is capable of a great many things. She decided to become an elementary school teacher. Since I don't have human children, Miss Bee (not Aunt B.) is my only link to the world of lower education. I'm thinking about her today because of the focus in the Nashosphere on ADD, gender learning differences, and education in general.
Miss Bee is the living embodiment of Lisa Simpson. Like Hermione, her boggart would be a piece of homework with a grade lower than A+. She is a fanatic about the psychology of early childhood development and loves all things related to educational theory. She graduated college with a Summa Cum Laude, in spite of her one non-A grade in, of all things, Badminton. (Life sure gave her the birdie on that one! Ha!) Her whole career, including college, she has been mired with people who wanted an easy college degree without the hassle of calling Sally Struthers' toll-free number. For a woman who takes education very seriously it rubs salt in the wound to see these people get and keep the better jobs more easily. Here's how it works: you have someone who isn't particularly great at the harder courses in college. They love crafts, they love activities and they love extended art projects. Like scrapbooking, bulletin board design and decorative theming. There's precious little call for home ec, so these people (generally women) take it on the road. They become elementary school teachers. And they get a job in a school where people like them (call them the "crafties") outnumber people like Miss Bee 3 to 1. Kids in Miss Bee's kindergarten learn to read. They learn basic math skills and foundational geometry. They learn social responsibility. She spends an additional 8 hours every day after the the busses pull away to design lessons tailored to the abilities and needs of each of her 40 kids in two kindergartens. The kids in her fellow teacher's ( A Crafty) class are making an art project to present to the principle for Bosses' Day. The project has nothing to do with developing skillsets other than that particular teacher's suckup ability. Yet which teacher do the parents rave about the most? Yep. The Crafty. Because the kids "have a blast" in her class. They "come home happy".
Where I'm going with this is that I know the world is a big place but people are the same all over. I'm sure that in elementary schools across the country, parents are satisfied with having their kids come home happy. They like going to the schools and seeing the classrooms designed to be a mock 100-Acre Wood. I was dumbfounded on our recent tour of Miss Bee's schools. Elementary School classrooms look less like a school and more like an extension of the idealized nursery. Who cares that a 6 year old can't tell the difference between a square and a rectangle, can't count past 10 and only knows 11 random letters of the alphabet? What does it matter, as long as there are construction paper-and-glitter monuments to their adorable youth, filed away in mothers' scrapbooks? Children expect to be entertained, and dislike the discipline of learning. Teachers who don't want to mess with behaviour problems are more than happy to drug and paste away the fidgets of a normal child. No child may be left behind, but apparently they are moving ahead with little idea where they're going.