Saturday, January 27, 2018
Good Morning Class...and Good Luck.
I teach art in an elementary school and I see students from kindergarten through fifth grade every day. Classroom teachers at every level often drop their students off for art with a comment like "They're insane today...good luck" or "I'm sorry we're late, it took ten minutes to get them quiet enough to walk down the hall". What's going on?
As educators we've all been taught to construct assessments based on what has been taught, and if a large number of students do poorly on an exam one area you must look at is your presentation of the material. That always has to be considered. Perhaps you didn't cover the material well enough, maybe you were asking for something on the test that students couldn't reasonably do.
More than one teacher this past month has said "With this class, if you are not on top of them like a drill sergeant 24-7 it's complete chaos, they can't work on their own at all, everything has to be directed". My classroom is in the middle of the building so I hear classes passing in the halls and see and hear students in the lunch room across the hall. Every day I hear an almost endless "Shhhhhhh", everyday I notice the lights turned off in the lunchroom, the signal that it's too loud and students must eat silently. Having been there, I can't say I disagree with the "too loud"description, but what's going on? Why is this the normal experience, not just in the first week of school, but all year long?
Could it be that the rigorous testing that goes on every day in kindergarten through fifth grade is too much? Could it be that early elementary grades K-2 should have some free time to build, explore, and interact with other? Is there a problem when the first time apart from a 15 minute recess that a five year old gets to have some freedom of choice comes in art class when they can use the watercolors to paint whatever they like? My guess is that most people have no clue that the early elementary grades no longer include nap time, or much story time for reading out loud, building blocks etc. Most people probably have no clue that students are expected to read and write in kindergarten.
I realize that part of my job when a student comes into my class jumping up and down, yelling, breaking things right and left, is to stop them from doing that, but I think it's also worth asking why? Why are they behaving this way?
I don't have any good answers.
I do have some observations though that might lead to questions, discussions and possible answers.
Elementary students are expected to be in class from 9 -3:30 each day paying attention and looking like they're paying serious attention. There's a 20 minute lunch and a 15 minute recess but no coffee breaks and no real break in the kind of work they're doing. How many adults have that kind of job?
Young children who are often experiencing their first extended social interactions are given little if any time for that important skill, they are expected to be "on task" all day long.
Teachers are expected to "differentiate" or offer learning experiences tailored to the 30 or so students they have that will meet each students specific and unique needs. There are few, if any, support people to assist the teacher. Students who once were consigned to special ed. classrooms are now mainstreamed without real support for their needs. When a child is disruptive a teacher can take time to talk with them, have them reflect on what they were doing, come up with a plan to make things right while teaching the rest of the class, giving one-on-one attention to students while monitoring the whole group. Sound impossible?
Why are we doing this?