Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reflections on my Career

   I originally posted this piece in 2009. I'll use the usual excuse when I repost something. "Nobody was reading me in 2009."


     I was a teacher for 37 years from 1958 to 1997. I taught in three provinces and one territory. I look back on my time with the feeling that I would do it all over again, but change some things which experience drilled into me.



    Now for starters, I have to be careful what I say because one of my previous administrators reads this blog. He's a wonderful human being but can be a bit critical at times. I might have to defend myself strenuously if I go too far out in left field.



     I took the compulsory administration's class in education. It was a survey course and explained and justified why the system was organized the way it was. The grade system was dealt with thoroughly.



     Looking back, some students jumped through the hoops (grades) willingly and paid their debt to society and got an education. However, not all students learned at the same rate or had the same learning style. So some kids had difficulties as they were not prepared or ready to learn the concepts being presented at a certain grade level. Some of these kids went on and never did pick up the concept and as a result were challenged later or met with failure. A simple example would be some student who did not learn to read in the primary grades. Some of the obvious behavior problems were a result of students not being ready for a concept and acting up because of the difficulties experienced.



     Now I'm not the only one to make these observations. Various attempts have been made to accommodate the variation in student readiness. "Continuous progress" - remember that one? Open classroom concept? Portfolios? These were attempts to solve the problem of different learning stages of the student population. They were good ideas and would have worked, but they didn't. A teacher was left with the same number of students and found the strategy too challenging so gradually backed into what they were doing previously .



     My favorite teaching assignment was to be given 12 to 15 students who were labeled as having problems. I was able to go away with these students and modify a program to where they were able to succeed. At the end of the year I would come back with my charges. Would they have achieved grade level? No! But they would have met with some success and avoided the hassles they would have met in the regular program.



     So it bugs me to some extent that I saw students experience problems because of a system which was set up to accommodate administration rather than a system set up to meet the needs of the individual student .

29 comments:

  1. I think you made your point quite well.

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  2. Bravo! Love that last sentence!

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  3. But truly, isn't that the problem with the education system anyway, Red? In order to accommodate the needs of the majority, the needs of the individual cannot be primary. One of my very favorite songs from years ago was the song "Flowers Are Red" by Harry Chapin. I am sure you know the song... The teacher in a classroom with 25 or 30 students simply doesn't have the time or resources to teach the children as individuals. Interesting read this morning.

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    1. I don't know the song but I will look it up because I like Harry Chapin. For my last four years my gr. seven classes had an average of 37... not good for anybody in this world.

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    2. I knew the story of the song. I went to youtube and embedded it on my blogspot. Such a sad statement for "good" education. Ugh...Let's keep spreading the news. We're dealing with human beings not cookie cutter gingerbread men!

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    3. Thanks for looking up the song. Once I saw the lyrics I said, "Oh I remember that song."

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  4. Very true, and not just for education I suspect. The same thing seems to be true over here in terms of the health service where the demands of managers seem to take priority over the interests of patients and the views of medical staff.

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    1. Now don't get me going on health care , Alan. The health system is in the same boat.

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  5. It sounds like you were a teacher who put the students ahead of the curriculum, which is very commendable, in my book at least. I enjoy hearing about your approach to life, Red.

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    1. Of course, I lost many discussions with the principal whose hands were somewhat tied.

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  6. Red unfortunatly this transpires,it's disheartening. I believe in what you did with your group of students and think that if more attention was paid to youth who needed the extra help that our jail systems, social workers, psychologists, and all helping professions wouldn't be in such high demand today. When will 'they' get it?

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    1. When you mention this topic you could really get me going. I like your question. There are so many challenges in this area. Just one...the treatment of gay and lesbian kids?

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  7. Woah, you just took me back to grade school in the 1970s. We had our classrooms in open "complexes" with no walls. They decided that little experiment was a failure sometime after I finished grade 6 in 1976. Not sure how well that whole experiment worked for anyone!

    Darlin has a good point.

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    1. I don't think that experiment worked for anyone. Maybe some builders who had to renovate the open classrooms to individual rooms again.

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  8. And you know what? The beat goes on...Sad but true. The stories never change but the faces do. I struggle so very hard to make learning individual for each student & yet allow all maximum learning. The thing admin., governors, etc. don't seem to get is a test does not always (maybe never) demonstrate all knowledge. So frustrating.

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    1. You're right the beat goes on. However we can take comfort that we are right. Amen on the testing. We both know that a test can be constructed to show anything we want. I've been on one too many testing committees. Keep your head up! Keep moving!

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  9. Please come here and apply for the Superintendent's position!!! PLEASE! I just left education after 17 years...just as you say administration runs the school for administration not for students, even here!


    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

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  10. In may ways I had excellent superintendents and principals but they all had to toe the line when it came to the education act and directives from the prov. govt. My only admin time was two years as principal of a two room school. I did enjoy dept. head positions. Anyway, no thanks for your supt. I'm doing just fine with retirement.

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  11. Not a dissimilar situation over here Red although at Secondary School in the early 60's I recall the yearly intake was graded by supposed ability into 4 seperate streams. I was fortunate to have two tutors who 'took me under their wing' and certainly stretched my boundaries and I've always been thankful for their efforts. I was a willing participant but those who didn't care were I suspect left behind.

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  12. My wife spent part of her time in the English system and finished in Canada. I have a pretty good idea of how it worked.

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  13. Amen to that!! I was an elementary behavior teacher for years.

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    1. I'll bet you've seen some sad cases? Some of those kids would have done better in a low enrollment class where there isn't so much going on. Thanks for dropping by Hiawatha House.

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  14. When I see the money splashed around so that politicians can just be seen, I always think that if just a portion of that waste could be put back into schools, things would be so much better. I wonder if governments really want a well-educated populace. In many cases it would not be a good thing for their individual success: people who are taught to think are not so easily led.

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  15. Yes, lots of our money is spent for show and "communications." I think the Harper Govt. is completely evil when it comes to trying to keep people in the dark.

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  16. It is very nice that the education program assigns staff with students having a bit of difficulties. I completely agree with the last sentence, there is no point in a system if it doesn't cater to the needs of individuals, when it is meant to serve just a majority, it defeats the purpose for which it was set up. Great post and I'm glad you reposted it. Cheers, Ruby

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  17. It's easy for me to suggest something to improve a system but on the other hand there are some difficulties with funding which I don't accept.

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  18. Red, you nail it every time.
    I loathed open concept classrooms.
    Passing a kid until they truly failed is just plain wrong.
    Touchy feeling, just love them enough attitudes are horrible.
    Discipline, consequences...
    gone.

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