Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Precious Little Dumplings

                “Oh, it’s okay.  It’s only one F.  it doesn’t mean you’re stupid or dumb.  You just need to work harder; that’s all.  You can do it; you’re so *smart*!”
                There is a serious problem with the approach taken with children.  We tell them that they are inherently beyond value.  It does not matter what they think, say, or do—it has no bearing on that untouchable, immeasurable value.  We tell them that they are brilliant and wonderful-not because of anything they do but just because we don’t want them to feel *BAD* about themselves!
                A little background:  I am a natural teacher; everywhere I go, I teach.  I have a lot of experience with special needs students—those people who have mental, physical, emotional difficulties.  My mother ran a special needs daycare when I was four, so I grew up with a sense of comfort around people that most young children stared at in disgust or confusion.  My entire life I have been sought out to teach—I cannot tell you how many times I have been told “You *have* to be a teacher; you just have to.  We need you.”  I am drawn to teaching; I’m not a teacher now-rather, I work to integrate special education students (from very mild needs to more complex and demanding issues) into mainstream classrooms.  Sometimes I will pull them out and have a completely independent class, but most of the time I aim to keep them within the classroom.  These kids don’t like to be singled out, and I do my best to respect that.  Anyway, the point is I have a lot of experience with teaching, and what I see is so very disheartening.  The American education system is a complete joke, but the problems begin at home long before we get 'em.
                There are students who will openly declare their brilliance, right after receiving multiple graded papers—all Fs –and being told they’re failing.  But they think that they are wonderful little monkeys.  They think they are smart.  And I am not supposed to tell them otherwise.  The workplace culture is that we must nurture the students by bolstering their self-esteem; we must tell them how wonderful they are.  I wonder how many of my coworkers realize the utter absurdity.  Why would I tell a student he or she is smart when he or she is lazy, incompetent, and willfully stupid?
                It has become so bad that we no longer even challenge the students to FIND the answers.  No, finding the answers—learning how to discover the answer on your own—this is a skill wholly beyond my students.  Rather, the challenge is to copy down the right answer—we give it to them now; we say it aloud, we write it on the board, sometimes we even give them a handout with the answers RIGHT THERE.  You would be AMAZED how many can’t even copy down the right answer when it’s given to them.
                Life doesn’t hand you the answer.  You have to work for it.  You have to search for it, often—or at the very least pay enough attention that you get it when it’s handed to you on a silver platter.  But there are so many students who are so lazy and indolent that they can’t even copy down the right answer when it’s given to them.  I think we’re cheating the intelligent students.  We should be making everyone search for the answers.  I don’t think that the students are so stupid that they are unable to find the answers.  I think they’ve been told they’re brilliant so often that they have no clue what that word even means—they have no idea what excellence is.  They don’t even aim for mediocrity anymore—they are happy enough just to scrape by the day and return home to indulge in Jersey Shore and dream of how that’s the life they truly want and deserve. 
                Until we start telling children, “Wow, that was really stupid.” or “You’re lazy.” or “You can do better and so you must,” things will continue on as they have.  I will be surrounded by a sea of stupidity, with no chance of breaking free of it.  Because if you’re stupid but think yourself brilliant, then you will never move beyond your stupidity.  Instead, you will bask in it, thinking it something worthwhile.  And that is what happens with my students:  They think their thoughts and actions worthwhile, and they drown in ignorance.

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Dreamer said...

This is what a bad day at the "office" looks like.

The kids are more than capable. They just need a system which works for them--and this current one we have going is NOT working for them any longer. Blame the teachers, blame the parents, blame society, blame the government, blame the students: it doesn't matter. The end result is the same: what we are doing is not working.

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