Friday, October 19, 2012

Mission Possible: Helping Every Child Succeed

Originally Posted on The Palmetto Queen 

As I have mentioned before, the Mr. and I have recently made the decision to home school the little prince. The reason for this decision is not based on religion or so that he will not have structure. The decision is based on our desire for our son to succeed. Beyond anything else, that's what we want for him. I don't feel that public schools have enough structure. I also believe that when schools/ teachers implement a "no competition" policy or "grading curve" based on the highest test scores, they are setting these children up for failure. I feel the same way about extra credit. My feelings on the public school system can be summed up in a simple statement. The school system needs to expect more out of children.

When I was asked to read Mission Possible, by Eva Moskowitz, I was intrigued and excited. I have known there was something wrong with the public school system (and all schools), but couldn't quite put my finger on it. Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia have successfully put my feelings about schools into words that I was never able to find. 

Eva Moskowitz founded the Success Academies in New York City as a response to the problems she saw in the school system. Moskowitz points out that even our country’s bet private schools cannot compete with the schools in other countries. She sees fundamental problems in the way schools are run, the education possibilities for educators, and the way children are taught. Moskowitz urges our schools to expect more out of children and prepare teachers to continuously improve their skills. She points out that if parents, teachers, administrators, and students (or scholars as they are called at Success Academies) work together, this will happen.

One of the issues Eva Moskowitz discusses as being a problem with the school system is stagnation. “Stagnation, being unable to accomplish one’s job at a high level, is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale.” This points back to the American culture and how we view teaching. This view has changed so much in the past 400 years.

Here is a mini history lesson for you. In 1636, Harvard College was founded to train teachers and ministers. At the time, doctors were not required to have a degree of any kind. Teachers and ministers were held as the highest profession. I have to thank a teacher who EXPECTED me to succeed for that knowledge. I will never forget that “nugget” of information. This particular teacher took her job seriously and didn’t use a grading curve. She also did not use extra credit.

Fast forward a few years later. It is the first day of my Education 101 course. I am sitting in the School of Education Building classroom with about 25 other students while we wait on the professor. He walked in, wrote a quote on the board, turned around to face the class and asked us what the following quote had to do with education. “Only the true professionals wear robes,” (I have no idea where this quote came from, but would love to know). I was clueless. I had an idea that teachers used to wear robes, but we soon launched into a discussion about which professions wore robes originally. I will never forget this day. He held his profession so seriously. Anyone who was around him immediately became intrigued with his thoughts on teaching.

Historically, teaching was one of the greatest honors. I wish this remained the case. However, in today’s society, Americans have gotten into the “those who can’t, teach” mindset. This idea never made sense to me, and I think that is the problem with this country’s education system. Teaching is now working in the trenches with little or no support from the community and administrative offices. Teachers get a degree and are put out on their own. They work entirely too many hours, work at home, and are expected to find time in there to plan and continue their education. They have to deal with students that won’t behave and have no interest in learning. They do this with a pay that competes with careers with no educational requirements.

In any other job/ career, low morale would be expected with these conditions, yet we expect teachers to be just as enthusiastic each August and May. Teachers are treated differently than other professions. They are not respected or appreciated. We are handing our children’s futures over to these overworked people and expect them to handle it all. If a child fails a test, it’s the teacher’s fault. If they don’t get into college, it’s the teacher’s fault. If they don’t turn in their homework, it’s the teachers fault for assigning it. Why do we blame the teachers? We don’t blame toy companies if our child doesn’t get a toy. We don’t blame doctors when our children get colds. We don’t blame cops if our teenager gets arrested. Then, why do we as Americans blame the teachers when our students don’t do their work. Or, better yet, when we don’t do our part to help our children succeed.

We, as a nation, have finally found a scapegoat for our failures. Teachers are to blame! I urge you to really take a moment and think about this. Is this really true? I don’t think so. The next time you want to blame a teacher, go to the school board and get something done. If your child fails a test, go to the teacher and ask what you can do to help. It’s as simple as making an effort. It’s time we stop blaming our teachers and start helping them. Make a commitment to sitting down and helping your children. Education is not just the responsibility of the teacher, it is also up to us, as parents.

If you have a child in school, will have a child in school, work in a school, or pay taxes that help pay for a school, I urge you to read this book. You can also connect with Eva Moskowitz via Facebook and Twitter and get a conversation going. Also, enter the giveaway- the details are below.

Thank you Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia for writing this amazing book. I will read it again (several more times) over the next 12 or so years. There is no school like this where I live, but I will implement your policies and procedures in my own home school journey. I expect my son to succeed, so he will.


Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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