Sunday, August 2, 2009

Refections on My Career

     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 administrations class in education. It was a survey course and explained and justified why the system was organized the way it is. 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 .