21 October, 2005

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.


At 2:11 PM, October 21, 2005, Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I found that most of my drugged kids were little more than zombies. They never posed behavior problems while in this state, but they were sometimes too lethargic to pay attention.

I certainly never recommended that a parent drug their kids. I always discouraged it when a parent would ask, but some teachers would suggest medication without prompting from the parents.

Those are bad teachers, and they suck at their jobs.

Your sister sounds like a good teacher, and I hope she sticks with it. It is easy to burn out, but it all depends on the support a teacher gets from parents and the school administration.

Some administrators also suck.

At 2:30 PM, October 21, 2005, Blogger Michael said...

Sounds to me like your sister would be the one I'd want to have teaching my neice when she goes to kindgergarden in a few years. See, Gracelyn seems to like learning and she is sharp--even with the proud uncle blinders off. I know my sister and her husband are already worried about the school system not being challenging for her and her being bored. I'd far rather G know how to read and have skills that might help her in life than being able to make kick-ass scrapbook pages....

But that's just me.

At 4:25 PM, October 22, 2005, Anonymous Miss Bee said...

No, I'm not mad that you blogged about me. Most of what you said is flattering, and you know I agree with you. I'm sorry that it took me so long to read it, but you know that the weekends are when I actually have a modicum of free time.

The "craftys" and crappy administrators are only part of the problem. I like to think I'm somewhat crafty myself if only in a more educational way. To me, the bigger problem is the asshole parents who have no idea what it takes to educate children, have no respect for what I do, do nothing to work with their children at home, do not appreciate kindergarten as the basis for all future learning, and think that they are my bosses. There are good parents out there, and they usually end up thrilled with the educational benefits that I give to their children by sacrificing my own time and salary. It's the ignorant breeders who only want to hear good things about their children so they can brag about them to the neighbors. They're the ones who like the "crafty" teachers who really aren't teachers at all.

At 6:04 PM, October 22, 2005, Anonymous tom said...

I think that Miss Bee's class do learn a heck of a lot. The parents that I work with were complaining a few days ago about how strict the new 4th grade teacher was on their kids. She assigned homework at the kid's level and did NOT want the parents to help the kid with it. Hmmm... What a novel idea. Personal responsibility. Wow.

At 8:04 AM, October 24, 2005, Blogger Michael said...

What....wait...you mean we should take personal responsiblity for our lives?!?

What's next?

At 10:06 AM, November 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a great discussion with my father about this topic a few weeks ago. His opinion is the same as mine. Keep them happy and they will not rebel. Just like the circus lion or tiger that do not attack the "trainer" who continues to whip at them, they are happy to ablige to whomever's ideals as long as thier tummies are full. This leads to the fact that the prices of green beans and tomato soup have not changed more than a few cents in the last generation. However most everything else has inflated well beyond any price that our grandfathers would even accept.

I know this sounds like a very far fetched idea, but look at it from another perspective. Compliance and complacency is the rule of the day. Keep the children happy, keep the parent happy, keep the PTA happy, keep your job.

Translation: How many people do you know that have risen to where they are by putting thier head down and working thier tail off? How many have FUMU'ed thier way up by kissing butt?

FUMU: Fudge up - move up.

Keeping the underlings occupied keeps them out of your hair. I watched a movie the other day and the "bad guy, leader bean" said, "These people needed something to do. They need to be occupied so I can protect them. I gave them vices to make sure they aren't busy endangering themselves. How else could I protect them?"

Keep this in mind next time you drop your child off at what is better known as school.

By the way, my 6 year old niece read a book to her grandfather (my father) the other day. Her education is completed both at school and at home.


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