Bored brains in school

ImageThe topic of education has been festering and evolving for about 2 years here. It’s late on a Saturday night and I am unfortunately sitting here deliberating this rather frustrating topic. I have 3 kids in the public school system and as they get older I am getting increasingly concerned about the path I am sending them on. I remember my experience in Catholic grade school and public high school. School is not a whole lot different now..probably quite a bit worse.

I feel bad ranting on education because I have developed personal relationships with several of my kids teachers. I have nothing but respect for these hard-working souls and I know my kids are in safe hands with them while I work and live my life. Actually, I think teachers struggle with a lot of the same concerns and they too have their hands tied.

My concern is not the teachers, overall! Couple exceptions! My concern is the system and the intentions of education in general. It’s a huge overwhelming topic with many components that have to be considered. Personally, my current concern is my oldest son. My younger kids are ok getting their basics down and learning how to function in a system. My oldest son, 6th grade, is my focus right now. Looking back on his experience I find it interesting that he was recommended for Summer School back in first grade because he was “behind”. Unfortunately, I failed him as a parent there. I just trusted the system because they are knowledgeable professionals and I was just a Mom. Ultimately, his Summer School experience didn’t really leave an impact. Waste of resources and time. I’m just recalling him needing extra help based on school tests. Tests that measure school stuff. They clearly do not measure people individually. They measure the abilities of children based on the memorization of useless facts. I could kick myself for drinking the Kool-Aid back then. I knew he was unique and intelligent in his own way but I did not have the confidence, knowledge or words to express myself so I allowed him to be labeled.

Children clearly cannot be measured by any one standardized test, yet we teach children that their potential and success can in fact be measured by tests and grades. I feel bad for the kid who works harder than everyone to earn a C and is left out of the honor roll celebration. Insanity! How can the abilities of thousands of different, unique people be measured by one test? In hindsight I see that my son did not see the logic in memorizing random useless information that amounts to nothing concrete, and he certainly didn’t attach a letter on a report card to his self-worth. I’m sure he did appear to need help with conforming to the system. It made no logical sense to him. Funny thing is, when he was at home he was brilliant. I thought so at least. He was busy thinking and creating all day, independently. His mind was always active and stimulated. This boy, at 5, would watch Discovery and History Channel for a couple of hours with complete focus and fascination. He retained everything. Today, we watched WWII documentaries and he already knew everything. He added several additional facts that were not even included in the program, which he apparently learned in second grade with his Dad. He loves learning. He always has and he initiates it himself. He’s in 6th grade now and school is killing this love of learning that he was born with. It really sucks to see him patiently and innocently submit to the ideals of a system that are squelching him and holding him back, completely shoving his mind in a small box.

So now in 6th grade, he gets A’s with little effort. I finally reached out to the school..5 years after he needed “special help”. Shame! I had a meeting with his teachers about the lack of a challenge. Not a popular topic. I was told he is spacey. Always seems to be in his own world. He needs to pay attention. Hmmm! Perhaps he is bored out of his flippin mind. It’s not stimulating to review material you already know for the fifth time this week so every kid can pass the SOL. I mentioned that his writing is poor. I was told I should be happy because a large portion of his classmates write worse than him. WTHeck..Honestly, I don’t care about the majority of students and their challenges. My kid is not being challenged by HIS needs and capability. Why are we always measuring individuals by the group? It seems like if a child gets to the top of the class of low standards and mediocrity they are put on the shelf to wait and wait. Although some of the teachers were genuinely interested we left with no solutions. There’s no resources available for petty stuff like boredom and lack of a challenge in school.

There’s countless programs for special needs and that is fine but it is dominating the system and its resources. Heck, if you can prove that the school is not providing a special needs child with his or her “right” to a free and appropriate education you can sue the school so they have to pay for a private education. That’s interesting! There’s a lot of kids with different special needs though, not just disorders. I understand, Boredom is not in the DSM & there isn’t an IEP for it, but it’s real for a lot of kids. It’s so real! It’s important to recognize that a lot of kids, not just mine, are submitting to a system of low standards and little expectations. They are bored to death and waiting for the system to leave no child behind.. They are intelligent kids who know they can turn in crappy work and get an A. I know this. I remember working the system myself. If you can keep your grades up and stay out of trouble, you’re golden. No one will bother you and certainly no one will recognize that you have completely escaped into your own world because school is a silly joke of appeasing adults who are looking at scores  instead of individuals.

And to all the teachers who care. I’m sorry!  I’m sorry that you have to hear from parents about giving their child an F when they deserve it. I’m sorry that you went to school because you love teaching children but find yourself having to teach kids things they should learn at home; like manners, social skills, respect and self-discipline. I’m sorry if you feel like a social worker instead of a teacher. I’m sorry that people expect you to do everything for their children besides teach them how to think and learn and explore their minds.

Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All to often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants. John W. Gardner

My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance, but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable of going to school, are more intelligent and more educated than college professors. Maya Angelou