20 March 2010

No child left behind...

At first I thought they were telling children "pull up your pants." You know, No child's left behind. Maybe people were tired of seeing children and youth's left cheek. Oh the Department of Formulation, I mean, Education.

I wonder a lot. I wonder more now that I am out of school than I did when I was in school.

I was a terrible student. I spent a lot of time in the principal's office, vice principal's office, after school detention, writing on the blackboard, which was green, I will not daydream in class... I will not daydream in class... I will not daydream in class... I will not daydream in class... I will not daydream in class... (Which, by-the-way, is when I became enamored with the ellipsis...)

I asked a lot of questions but rarely found the answers satisfying my curiosity. Most of my teachers told me that I wasn't very smart and there was always the possibility of being HELD BACK. I would have dreams where my school chums were running forward to play baseball or foursquare and I was being HELD BACK by big hands that smelled of coffee, cigarettes and chalk. I wasn't very good at reading my text books because I found myself reading the same sentence over and over again or realize I wasn't paying attention during the last two paragraphs or didn't remember where I put my text books.

Once I raised my hand and asked my math teacher why we needed to know this math stuff and his reply was, "...because next year the math will be harder and you will need to know this then." After a minute of trying to understand his response I raised my hand and asked the same question... I was then sent to the nurse's office to have my hearing tested. After school was out, then I was sent back into my classroom to write on the blackboard, which was green, I will not ask stupid questions...

It seemed that the classes where questions were asked were not the "remedial" classrooms but the "advanced" classrooms. My friends, most of whom were in those classrooms, told me about what they learned that day and how interesting it was and then I told them what I was being taught and even though we were the same age, we weren't be taught the same thing. I thought maybe I will learn what they were being taught and given permission to ask questions next year. No, and when I asked why, I learned how to spell "contumacious" by writing it on the blackboard, which was green, 100 times.

Once my friend, who is in the government in Washington DC, and I broke into the counseling office at my high school (I can tell you now because the statute of limitations are up) and all we did was look at our own file folders. I remember sitting in the corner, with a little light which shown from the security alarm, reading what teachers have said about me throughout my 11+ years of education. It took me a while but I read through my life from Kindergarten to Junior Year. In my early years, my teachers said they were fond of me but had concerns about my concentration and distracting the students around me. They recommended summer school. Then in the later elementary grades, there was a diagnosis that I needed speech therapy and I was beginning to fall behind. My music teacher wrote that I was a delightful lad and was learning well on my trombone, recommended that I travel to the other grade school to play with that band.

Sixth grade and through Junior High, my teachers had grave concerns that I was on the border of flunking and should be held back. There was even a note from my bus driver stating that I used a nasty word in the Japanese language and that I should not be allowed to ever ride his bus again, which I never rode it again. 申し訳ありません, Mr. Doi

High School, there was a lot of comments which said, "Tony is a delight to have in class when he is not being a distraction to me or the other students."

There were a couple of teachers who I loved because they were teaching me through other methods which used my modalities of strength instead of just through reading. I would stay after to ask my questions which were usually answered which led to another question which led to another...

After reading about me through the words of these teacher, I understood some things. One, there are many ways to learn, not just through reading. I needed to use my strong modalities to learn, primarily kinestetic, as well as ask questions so that I understood the concept, not just memorized the answer. Two, many teachers only know how to teach one way. Good teachers understand the child so that they can "train up a child in THE WAY they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it."

Blessings to those who read all the way to the end and didn't get distracted...


Shaleen Camery-Hoggatt said...

Tony, I am no longer in the classroom, but after 20 years there I can tell you that the requirements of No Child Left Behind changed the classroom in all the wrong ways, and led to a saying that it really meant, "No good teach left standing." The kinds of teachers who care about their students enough to really know them, listen well, answer questions and explain meaning behind the lessons, real world applications of learning...the kinds of teachers who create lessons that allow all learning styles and strengths to be engaged are leaving and have been leaving the public system as fast as possible because of the No Child Left Behind assessments that never end, paperwork that is beyond ridiculous, and lack of funding to do the job.

Your post makes me proud of my teaching career because I was the kind of teacher who saw students' potential despite challenges they faced and did everything in my power to make learning a joyful and empowering experience. It is precisely students like you who made the job a joy for me because i felt Jesus' call to love each student and family and extend God's grace in the day-to-day interactions.

I'm sorry for all the negative experiences you had in school and grateful there were a few teachers who did their jobs well in teaching you. These insights show in the way you relate to the young people you supervise and with whom you work in camps. You have become the kind of teacher you needed when you were young and that is an awesome gift to this world! It is evidence of how God desires for each of us to find treasure in every experience and learn from all that we experience in life, moving us closer to God's unconditional love and grace. I just read this morning that Nouwen said, "Welcoming unconditional love automatically makes
us more like the Unconditional Lover." You exemplify that in your work.



Shaleen Camery-Hoggatt said...

I meant, "No good teacher left standing" in the first paragraph. I don't see a way to edit this. Sorry. Hope it made sense anyway. :)

Robin said...

exactly why I've entered the teaching field. all students learn differently, therefore, there is not ONE formula in which students can learn. when did we forget this?

second sister said...

So many of my brilliantly and beautifully gifted friends report to me things teachers said to them and it absolutely makes me want to rage. I miss stimulating conversations with you, T. -Corinna

ga said...

i did get distracted a time or two or maybe 3, but i did make it through! so true!!!