Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Most Challenging Issue in Education Today

Reflective Teaching 30 Day Blog ChallengeDAY 17: What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

For me, the most challenging current issue in education is getting some people to see that education is not all about making children fit into the cookie cutter of expectations (i.e. National Standards)! Parents, (perhaps spurred on by the media hype) seem to be anxious that their children are meeting the standards as set out by the government. I understand their worry as every parent wants their child to do well but the problem is how do we define what is normal progression and what isn't? It seems that such thinking could lead us back to the bygone days of rote learning i.e. your must know this, this and this to pass school. It takes away all the little skills that people use in everyday life to get to the answers. I am equally interested that children know how to take the journey to find the answers than have all the answers.

In my short time working with children I see that every person learns in their own way somehow. It isn't always noticeable, especially when we as adults bring our own bias about how we should learn into the picture. For example, I myself am quite a visual person and I like seeing things but I also like to be able to do things as well. I might not always appear to be listening, so to some it may seem as though I'm daydreaming but I'm usually tuned into what is happening but consolidating it to my own experience. The person next to me may be totally different. They might be a restless listener who need to  move and they might prefer "doing" above all things. This description only touches the surface. Add to this situation the pressure to be at a certain level of learning. Some of us may take a longer time and a lot more repetition to get to this standard, others may get it instantly while unfortunately for others some things are always going to be a struggle. 

Such is a snapshot of a possible classroom. I see my job as a teacher to make sure each child can learn to the best of their ability in each subject (whatever that subject may be). I get to know my students and hopefully use their individuals preferences to help them learn more easily. I resent having to put them in boxes that say "below the standard" and "well below the standard". Believe me a child knows when they aren't doing well and they are usually self-conscious of it). Perhaps some might see this as another example of political correctness gone mad where we can't tell children that they're failing and they may have a point but what I want a child to go away with is that they are "here" in the spectrum of learning and then show them what things they need to do to get to the next step. I'm not afraid to tell a child that they are slacking or not doing the work I know that they can do but if it comes to the stage that they just can't do something I don't believe that is a failure of myself or the child although it may be a challenge to find a way to help them learn!

It makes me sad to hear of parents that are pushing their children (at such young ages) to be better and better at everything over actually getting out and having some good old-fashioned fun! What I want to say to the worriers who want their child to fit into the mould they (or the government)  have in mind for them is that it's okay if your child is behind. It's not something that any of a us strive for but unfortunately few of us are good at everything! It is not the end of the world and believe me as a teacher we are always trying to find ways to help the children get better. We will be able to give you things you can do at home to help, if necessary. It is after all our job! However, it is not a reason to put undue pressure on children as this often has a negative effect. Children will take their own pathway to learn which isn't always the one that you expect them to take. The important thing to remember is that your child may not be the best mathematician but they might have a passion for art. Then this is the skill that you'll want to encourage in them above all others. In today's world you can combine that skill with almost anything and get the makings of several careers!

I also believe that school is about more than book learning. It is learning to socialise with others, be a part of a community, very new things, persevere, create, explore, share, evaluate, invent and so many other skills that underlie the official curriculum. These skills although not implicit are perhaps the more important skills for our children to take away from the classroom. It's about knowing how to find out things and in the world wide web of opinions over facts, being able to read things critically and make a justified an opinion. There is so much more to life than the test scores and subjects levels we are traded with as kids. 

I'm not saying that it's okay to not do well in subjects but our education system needs to be balanced. I  don't want children to be constantly worried about not getting the same marks as their classmate in every single subject. Not everyone can be better than everyone else and I don't believe that is what life is all about. The number one reason I became a teacher is because I am passionate about learning and I want to help children find their passions in life and use them to the best of their ability.  That is the kind of classroom I want to be in and that I would want my child to be in. How about you?

Here's a link to an article I read on the subject lastnight if you wish to read more on the subject: The White and Blue National Standard Box

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