Friday, January 24, 2014

The State of Education

As with many of my rants here, I find source material on Facebook.  So imagine my surprise when I see a video of a young man talking smack to a teacher. 

Video of Student Schooling Teacher

Now, this young man, has several good points.  I hope that he doesn't get into too much trouble for what he said, and how he voiced his opinion.  A bad teacher should be called out for their crappy teaching. 

For me it has been well over a decade since I stepped into a High School.  But, I had a teacher who was similar to this.  Mostly he would give out packets at the beginning of the week, and whatever was in that packet was on the test.  Then he would rush us through material to ensure we passed any state issued tests.  Once a student started talking at this teacher like this student did, and we had the reverse of this outcome. 

The teacher became so outraged that this "kid" spoke to him in this way that he said "I don't give a shit if you kids learn anything.  I get a paycheck either way."  He then laughed and stormed out of the classroom.  Luckily another teacher who was between classes heard the outburst and came to the rescue.  For the rest of the week we had a substitute, and I actually started to enjoy that class.  But the next week, he came back and it was business as usual.  I actually came to dislike literature because of that class, specifically him.  The work other teachers put into getting me to read, undone by one prick.

A few years later I have a Geometry teacher who was the same way.  I have always disliked math, for whatever reason, I just do not get it and I would always be happy to get out of a math class with something considered a passable grade.  In college I did better in math, but still it is a blight to see a C, when almost everything else was B+ or higher.  This is something that amazes friends, because I am a talented musician when I set my mind to it (I learned to play many songs and instruments by ear, can memorize music quickly, and can tell if something is sharp or flat in an instant). Okay, back to the point of this entry.  Once, another student who was struggling with some of the material, expressed his dismay, as he was completely lost.  At this point I think we had both fallen off the map, and basically just stared blankly into space for 90 minutes a day, but he was still trying.  I just did whatever I had to do to get through that class.  So one day he raises his hand, and when the teacher asked what was wrong, he explained that he just didn't understand.  She asked what he did not understand, and he replied that he did not understand any of it.  I came around figuring that finally I would get an explanation for this subject that was dumbed down enough that I could understand it.  But each time he said he did not understand what she was saying, trying to teach, she asked him to explain to her what he did not understand, to which he would reply he understood nothing.  This resulted in him getting kicked out of class, and nothing getting explained.  As it turned out later, people who were straight A students suddenly dropped to a C average in that class. 

There are a lot of bad teachers, I will be the first to admit it.  But, there are a lot of good teachers as well.  I had several good teachers in my time, teachers that did everything humanly possible to see students succeed, even if it was barely a passing grade, they gave their heart and soul to help kids.  My senior English teacher, Mr. Lem, tried everything he could think of.  In his class Shakespeare was not some beating a dead horse forced text.  He made it fun.  Well after I left his class, I remembered the literature we read.  He was laughing at all of us as he gave us our degrees at graduation.  Most of us had been out of his class for five months, yet he could ask us a question about something we read, and we could recall it almost instantly.  He engaged us in class, he made it fun, it was interesting.  If you tried, he would work with you.  And while it is not fair to single him out amongst teachers like Ms. King, Ms. Grady, and others, I remember him over those teachers. 

That is some of the problem, we remember the bad more than the good.  Sometimes, the really good teachers stay with us for life.  I always joked that if I wrote a book, my very first acknowledgements would be Mr. Lem, for being such an awesome teacher, and my Mom for pushing me in school.  But this should show us one of the major problems with teachers today.  Many are there simply for the paycheck.  They really do not care about the students they are to teach, shape and grow.  They are bad teachers and they need to be gone.  The good teachers need to be rewarded, the ones who really try to reach students, to teach them the knowledge they need to succeed, the ones that empower students.  Sure my Mom was one of the main reasons I went to college, I graduated with three BS degrees, Summa Cum Laude.  But without the good teachers, I would have never picked up the habits of keeping up with the news, further educating myself on my own.  Without the support of Mr. Lem, and all the good teachers, I would not have been as brash in some of my college papers.  He supported me linking Stephen King's  Wizard and Glass, to Arther Rex, the Wizard of Oz, and other novels that seemed to have no coherent place in the paper.  It worked, but only because he guided me.  I would have never tried something that outrageous in my final papers dealing with Criminal Justice, Social Justice, or Psychology.

I hope, this young man finds teachers like the good ones I had.  He can, and will go far in life, when he finds them.  Otherwise, he will burn out, and fall into mediocrity, and that would be a true loss.  As he said, we are the future of our country, just as we all were once upon a time.  Maybe we can take something from this, if not for ourselves, but for our children.