A Blessed Confusion With The Education System

As a first-year college student with a sister in her freshman year of high school, I look back to high school myself. How the the education system is run. How high school prepares you, or is supposed to prepare you, for college. How as a college student researching the skills or qualities that jobs are looking for, I am somewhat confused. But before I begin writing about this subject, I just want to make a few things known.

The education system topic has many different opinions that each make sense. Perhaps one opinion may seem more logical than another for one person; however, without experiencing the conditions of the other point of view or having a real sense of empathy, it should be touch to judge.

I am extremely blessed and fortunate that I was able to receive the education that I did. Along my journey through grade school, I had terrific teachers and some of them I will never forget, as they have made a significant positive impact on my life. The opportunities and privileges that I had in high school are most likely more in number than many other students in America, especially in the inner cities.

I will admit that I have not done sufficient research on this topic. My knowledge comes from my own opinions, observations, and experiences. Although open-minded, I realize that I am not aware of what each point of view is exactly. I cannot imagine how difficult the conditions must be that many students around the United States face. I will not tell you that what I am saying is logical, nor will I attempt to convince you or persuade you, to believe or agree with me.

My reason for writing this is to share a few observations that I have noticed and experiences that I have been through. Because I love being open-minded and taking in all the different perspectives, I would love to read your opinions to learn more myself.

  1. When I was very young (three or four), I had childhood apraxia of speech. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is a motor speech disorder in which a child has difficulty in speaking sounds, syllables, and words. The child knows what he or she wants to say, but his/her brain has difficulty coordinating the muscle movements necessary to say those words. Fortunately for me, I had an amazing mother who put her 110% (if that number is even high enough to represent her efforts) into finding a solution for my problem. My father and brother (my brother was five or six years old) were also extremely helpful. I also received frequent teachings from extraordinary speech pathologists who assisted me in overcoming my childhood apraxia of speech. In their methods, the speech pathologists often used Pokemon cards, action figures, and racecars. The creative methods that they used definitely paid off, but I wonder what would have been the case if each speech pathologist was forced to use the same method, with little room for creativity?

2. In fourth grade, I was blessed in having one of my favorite teachers in the world. We’ll call her Mrs. H. Mrs. H was amazingly creative in her methods of teaching. We learned songs that had to do with the material we were learning, and some just because they were so fun and goofy to sing. I am in no way embarrassed that I remember most of the songs nine to ten years later. Her room was also filled with displays of projects we did. We read books in circles and wrote reports that were put on display. For Halloween, we took a plain paper with a picture of Frankenstein on it and edited it with our own creative designs and ideas and wrote a paper on how our monster was unique and, granted, terrifying. Perhaps my favorite project was choosing an individual to write a biography on. When it came to present our biography in front of the class, we had to dress up as the individual we chose. I chose the legendary ballplayer Lou Gehrig to write my biography on. But being a die hard Boston Red Sox fan, I refused to wear New York Yankees apparel because I would be betraying my team. The day of my presentation, I wore a striped shirt with a Yankees logo on it; however at the end of my presentation, I lifted up the felt Yankees logo that my dad attached on my shirt to reveal that it was actually a Red Sox shirt. That was one of my favorite years of learning. It was not because I learned a lot in math or science. It was because I enjoyed learning; my teacher was creative and she made learning fun for everyone.

3. I was blessed to have the greatest English teacher (in my opinion) in high school for both my sophomore year and my senior year (because I requested having her my senior year). We’ll call this teacher Mrs. B. Mrs. B was not like other teachers; she made me a student. I had other tough teachers but she was the toughest, even more tough than the teachers who taught advanced placement material. What I loved about Mrs. B was how simple she made things and how fair her class was. The effort that you put in showed, and you earned the grade that you received. There was no bullshitting your way through the class, yet extra help for essays, readings, or grammar was always offered. During my sophomore year, I was lazy and I did not try as hard as I should have and I received a B for the year. I chose to take her senior year after doing very well my junior year. I was ready to face the challenge head on. The class was more difficult than I thought, even as a level one class (I wonder how hard it would have been if she taught advanced placement English). Despite the difficulty of the class, I tried as hard as I can, and went above and beyond and earned an A+ for the year. I still put in my best effort even though I had been accepted to college and many of my friends stopped trying as hard because I respected that class too much. I loved the class because the way Mrs. B taught was so admirable and respectable. There’s no reasonable way in my mind that parents or students could complain about the way she taught.

4. Both of my teachers retired at the end of last year. I was fortunate enough to have Mrs. B right before she retired: what a blessing. Although both of these teachers were getting older and that was a major factor in their retirement, they did have other reasons. Mrs. H, as a result of the demands on standardizing education, was forced to teach a different way. She had to prepare students more for the MCAS Test by teaching them what they should be learning in math, science, and reading comprehension. As a result, her teaching methods became less creative. While talking to my mom once when I visited her a few years ago, she told my mom that she would always love teaching students but there was just a special quality and feeling associated with it that had been somewhat lost as a result of her losing control over what she had to teach. Mrs. B was criticized by students, teachers, and even the administration for failing students or giving them poor grades. The students whose parents criticized her were the same ones who never did homework, never sought extra help, and never really showed a focus on their education. Should the teacher be held accountable for the student’s poor grades? Also, as a result of the focus on MCAS testing, my teacher had to go against her deeply integretated beliefs in order to become more lenient in her grading. This was done in order to “help” students perform better and not fall behind. That confuses me.

5. Yesterday, my sister shared a tweet with my mom that stated “if artistic people are forced to take years of math and science then why don’t students who love math and science have to take art and music classes. And if you’re ‘bad’ at art and music, then ‘it’s okay, not everyone has an aptitude for those kinds of things’ but if you’re bad at math and science then ‘you’re not smart/you’re not trying hard enough.’” Some would answer and respond with “well, because you’re always going to need math and science through your life but not really art and music.”

Recently, I have been researching many topics online to prepare me for my internships over the summer. One of these topics is what companies look for in a well-qualified candidate. Want to know what characteristic many companies stress? Creativity. The same characteristic that is becoming less important in favor of math, science, and reading comprehension is wanted by companies in an employee. And why would they not? The economy is constantly changing; creativity allows an individual to adapt to the change in flexible ways.

I can understanding the “no child left behind” strategy. I understand that some students are not as lucky as others; however, I do not agree with what we are being tested on (science, reading comprehension, mathematics). It is a deeply integrated system, but it can change. I agree that there should be a standardized test, but I believe it should be focused on multiple areas such as reading, math, science, adaptation to change, problem solving, creativity, and many others. I also believe that the key to education is to focus on how to learn, not just information.

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