Sunday, August 19, 2007

Are We Failing Our Geniuses? - TIME

Are We Failing Our Geniuses?

James sent this to me (I'd guess he got it from some of his nerd friends) but the title says it all. Here were some of the more poignant paragraphs:

"Since well before the Bush Administration began using the impossibly sunny term "no child left behind," those who write education policy in the U.S. have worried most about kids at the bottom, stragglers of impoverished means or IQs. But surprisingly, gifted students drop out at the same rates as nongifted kids--about 5% of both populations leave school early. Later in life, according to the scholarly Handbook of Gifted Education, up to one-fifth of dropouts test in the gifted range."

AND

"To some extent, complacency is built into the system. American schools spend more than $8 billion a year educating the mentally retarded. Spending on the gifted isn't even tabulated in some states, but by the most generous calculation, we spend no more than $800 million on gifted programs. But it can't make sense to spend 10 times as much to try to bring low-achieving students to mere proficiency as we do to nurture those with the greatest potential."

Anyway, this was one of the many stresses that led me to decline my previous employment. Driven by NCLB and a need to meet Reading and Math scores, educators are doing absolutely ludicrous things. I was told that because "each child learns differently, children who were good in Math would be pulled for extra reading." Right, because taking children out of things they are good at is a great way to motivate them. Additionally, by focusing on Math and Reading, we aren't giving children the great motivators of Science and Social Studies, the reasons to know how to read and do math. They were also using science as a "content reading" class. Reading about science and being a scientist are two very different things. Being a scientist requires a lot of reading and a lot of opportunity to practice reading skills. Unfortunately, if the way I practiced reading skills did not exactly mimic the state reading test, they were not valid.

I could rant about this for a while, but if you haven't read Animal School take a look. Here is just one version of it. Everytime I read it or think about it I think back to a young boy in my first K-2 class. He had been held back the year before I got there. He was not eligible for special services or extra help because he had a low IQ and was performing at that level, though his level was not enough to meet state standards. However, this boy was one of the best artists and fishermen in the class. His sketches of his grandfather's boat were accurate to every detail. He watched his grandpa fish and could describe in a very mature fashion how everything worked. He thrived in art, science and culture. Unfortunately, he will continue to be pulled out of these classes to "catch up" in other things. Imagine spending your day being denied the subjects you enjoy and excel in while being pushed to stay in subjects in which you fail and are not successful. What a terrible day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On the hunt . . . again

Well, after spending 3 straight weeks cleaning out and setting up my science classroom, I will no longer be teaching science. It was very difficult to give up the position (well, only so difficult since I still didn't have a contract). I really, really wanted to teach science. I had worked my butt off getting super organized so I could manage all my responsibilities and still be a good teacher. Unfortunately, after my first official (again, it was only so official) day, it became exceedingly clear that there was no way it would work at the school that offered me a job. So, now I'm conflicted. I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulder on one hand, but feel really shitty that I couldn't handle it on the other.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hey Teacher! Leave those kids alone!

So, I've spent the last two weeks cleaning out my new classroom. It's a sad state of affairs, but many Rez schools or BIA schools are filled with charitable, old crap! I'm sure the white suburban schools thought it was really nice to donate their old encyclopedias when they got new ones, but if no child is to be left behind, do poor children do better with older materials? Grrr. Luckily I had a fabulous mentor when I was in AK who helped me get past my "it could be useful someday" mentality, allowing me to really clean up the classroom so it's a more useful, welcoming place. Thanks Sally!

Otherwise, I've also noticed a disturbing trend in education, and that's the mentality of "get 'em when they're kids". I was just thinking back to my elementary days when the D.A.R.E. officer gave us the "tell your parents not to drink and drive." I didn't know the difference between drinking and drinking and became really nervous the next time my dad was cruising along the road with his Big Gulp :) Anyway, the point of the story is that for the sake of "getting them while they're young" we are exposing many children to things for which they are not developmentally ready. Also, it's a sad excuse to use children as a vehicle to their parents, when the reality is, there is very little focus paid to improving adult education.

So the reason for my rant is the gazillions of free curricula cluttering up my room. Radon education, power line safety, global warming (don't get me started on this one!), food, health, nutrition, dangers of 4 wheelers, protect the birds, protect the right to 4-wheel . . . and so on and so on! Having worked for a brief time on the outside looking in, I understand why all of these organizations are targeting the schools with their message. . . and because they have such a brief amount of time they must be incredibly blunt. However, no middle schooler needs to be their home's radon detector, fire safety planner, environmentalist and nutritionist. THIS IS TOO MUCH FOR YOUNG CHILDREN TO WORRY ABOUT. They should be worried about answering questions like "what happens when . . . " and "if I try this will this . . . " while exploring the resources around them, instead of looking for various killers lurking around every corner.

I nearly cried the first time I read that children were requiring counseling after An Inconvenient Truth and subsequent GCC lessons. We as adults are hesitant to make ANY changes in our lifestyles for the sake of our childrens' planet, yet we continously burden them with doom-filled messages that they are the only ones who can save it.

You know what? We adults still have 40+ years of helping save the earth. Maybe we could focus on that and let kids be kids. Who knows? Maybe that child who spends his time playing outside will learn to love the outdoors so much he'll want to save it, without all the therapy bills and anxiety disorders :)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Olivia's Boyfriend

This is Olivia's wannabe boyfriend, Tomcat. Many evenings you can find Tomcat outside for his supper (this evening it was something delicious from our cast iron skillet). A la Romeo and Juliet he croons at the window until his fair maiden Olivia appears. She then spends the evening being shooed away from the kitchen window while Tomcat tries his best to attract her. They've had one nose-to-nose meeting when Olivia was outside on her leash, but Tomcat didn't seem that interested then. Maybe he just liked courting her, but when he realized she won't put out, he'd rather be out hunting :)
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Five on Friday

1.  Look at these winter white legs out enjoying the sunshine at the dino park.  Spring has FINALLY sprung! These boys went from winter di...