Here I find myself again, questioning the structure of formal, traditional education. As an educator in my fifteenth year, I do not find conformity any more appealing. On the contrary, it bothers me more and more. There are stated and unstated expectations for teachers, students, et al, many of which do not make any sense.
Why do we have students walk silently up and down the hall, the more silent the better, the straighter the line the better, the more conformity the better. When else in life do we ever walk silently in straight lines? The military? I agree that students in the hall should be considerate of the students in classrooms they walk by. We all know how frustrating it can be for our learning to be interrupted by what we would all likely consider to be rude hallway behavior. But can we better define hallway expectations by appealing to student idealism, like being a considerate community member, rather than forcing them to conform to military style discipline?
Never mind children who do not learn in the traditional way. Schools are starting to become more accommodating for children who need to move, stand, fidget. However, this is being done case-by-case basis, rather than an institutional shift in ideology as it should be. It still feels like we are training children to be automatons, rather than individuals who have something unique to contribute . Schools need more arts, more sports, more music, more of those subjects from which most of us adults find pleasure. Children need more opportunities to find their passion, what makes their hearts sing.
I also have issues with homework. I’m sure most of us have come across research questioning the usefulness of homework. Yet, we still assign it. Why? It is a district expectation. It’s what we’ve always done. I had to do it, so they must too. Our students’ parents will question our ability to properly educate their children. Which brings me to my next question.
Why aren’t educators respected as experts in the field of education? We have Masters Degrees for God’s sake. We all know teachers don’t do it for the fame or the money. So why are we bossed and micromanaged, controlled, and dictated to, when we are the ones with the training and education? We all can acknowledge that there is a lack of respect for teachers, despite the fact that most in society are only where they are due to their education. Doctors wouldn’t be doctors if it weren’t for their teachers in med school. Lawyers wouldn’t be lawyers without their law professors. However, we are constantly questioned by those who have no training, no experience, and likely no passion to do the job we are so proud to call ourselves by.
I also question how traditional education handles human nature. Disregarding the negative characteristics, like greed and ego that tend to lead us into conflict, what is human nature at its core? I believe people are naturally good, and that we are creatures of the earth. Why is the vast majority of our learning done inside, at tables and chairs, when up until two hundred years ago, most of our real-life learning was done everywhere BUT there. Why aren’t we outside more? Why aren’t we in our community more, helping others and teaching and practicing what we know are good, actions that make us feel good, and more importantly, help others. We have become too individualistic. There have been movements to respect the earth, to come together as communities, to reject corporate influence. Shouldn’t those movements have some influence on what happens in our schools.
I hate conformity, yet feel as if I am part of some Orwellian nightmare. If I’m working within this system, am I not a part of the problem? I stay quiet at times because I need to keep my job. I follow nonsensical district policies because I need to keep my job. I watch talented educators being forced out of the profession and say nothing because I need to keep my job. On a daily basis, I suppress my natural instincts to stay in a system that is so deeply flawed.
So what do I do? Stay where I am because I need the income, despite feeling overworked, underpaid (we are a single-income household with two adults and three children and my two school-aged kids qualify for FREE lunch), and wholly unappreciated and not respected? Do I pursue an alternative that I find more palatable for my children and others? Do I leave altogether? Do I pen frustrated blog posts and then continue to put my head down and follow like a sheep?
I do not yet know the answer to that. Some day I may. However, until that day comes, I will continue to put my head up and look around, questioning everything, as I have been taught to do.