January 16, 2013

The System

Public education gets a bad rap. In some ways it should. We do so many things backwards. We cut physical education, music and art programs and design curricula for the single purpose of passing a series of tests. In doing so we take away whatever freedom good teachers have to be creative and prop bad teachers up. Systems are so strained that they would cease to function without the intervention of concerned parents while teachers spend their own paychecks on supplies.

That's the bad stuff, the parts everyone knows, the criticisms everyone makes. What's often forgotten is the good.

I went to an elementary school concert last night. During the first half of the program, the choir serenaded the audience of excited parents and bored siblings with adaptation of popular songs. They were surprisingly good, very enthusiastic, and clearly having a wonderful time. Then came Mia and her drumming ensemble. Yes, drums. The kids - grades two through four - have mastered some complicated rhythms on multiple forms of percussion. It's pretty awesome to watch, even more impressive to close your eyes and listen to since that's when you hear the true complexity. They performed surrounded by parents and, most impressively, teachers who lengthened their day to watch the kids they teach.

At the end, the rhythms die down, the music teachers are thanked, flowers are handed out, everyone claps, the principal says a few words, and you notice for just a split second how wonderful the system can be when people care.

Posted by Chris at January 16, 2013 7:03 AM

My kids go to an amazing school. They have fantastic teachers who are great at what they do, can engage any kid, are caring yet take no crap from short people. However,I do wonder if it's a difference in school system. Had I stayed in Los Angeles, I'd of put mine in Private school. I just would have. In a Denver suburb...well, we're in one of the best counties in the state. You won't hear a lot of complaints about most of the elementary schools.

The school system matters. Parental involvement matters. How much funds are given for extras. That sort of thing. You're talking about a music program and we have one too (and clubs and activities and a zillion other great things), yet so many school just don't anymore.

I think school failure starts higher than the teachers.

Posted by: Issa at January 16, 2013 4:01 PM

I'm a 5th grade teacher and could not agree with you more. Thank you.

Posted by: Jenn at January 17, 2013 6:51 AM

Thank you for noticing the wonderful things that happen at school! So much emphasis is placed on what is wrong with our educational system, and not enough is placed on the sheer creativity of the teachers that are working under a broken system, and yet still find ways to innovate and motivate our kids. As an elementary special education teacher, I know all too well how much my fellow teachers struggle to do what they know is best for their kiddos, and yet still check off the boxes required of them by the state.

Stay involved! Parents have a lot of say, and they keep our system evolving and keep it centered on their kids (and not the test scores).

Posted by: Tara at January 17, 2013 1:46 PM

I love our public school and it's in GA. It's a Title 1 school so we end up talking about the "achievement gap" all the time, and there are issues to be sure, but it is a rich and diverse community of people which is something we are glad our children get to experience. Our teachers are great and many of them go the extra mile in spite of budget cuts, furlough days and the paperwork. They come in early and stay late to do chess club, math club, art club, and a space team program in which kids learn about piloting and conducting a space shuttle mission and then spend the night in a simulator or our science lab that gets converted to Mission Control. The people make all the difference if parents are willing to become part of the community and not just rely on test scores on paper, there are programs and people that can give your child amazing experiences and a sound education.
Sermon ended.

Posted by: Amanda L at January 18, 2013 10:20 AM