Rhettoracle's Blog

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It’s your kid’s fault! – Silly Bandz

Yea!  My first entry in this category.  Let’s start with Silly Bandz since it is what has come to my attention first.  A school district in South Carolina recently started to struggle with the child and tweenager bracelets, and the district has banned the “bandz” from school.  As the article states, schools in several other states have had to ban them as well.  Why is this article under the category “It’s your kid’s fault?”  Because this is a perfect example of the day to day nonsense that teachers have to put up with.  Your child comes to school with Silly Bandz, a perfectly harmless product  (and might I add, a great way for children to learn how to trade and share – in case you don’t know, trading these bracelets with their peers is all the rage).   But because enough of you parents have not reared your children properly, taught them the value of an education and showed them right from wrong, your children are using the bracelets to do their evil bidding, that is, hurt each other with them.  Schools do not act too quickly on issues like this, so if they have made a blanket ban, then it is obviously a significant disruption and has been for quite some time.  So what?  *Deep breath*:  Now the teachers are responsible for making sure students don’t have them, and when they see them, have to stop class and ask the students to turn them over, at which point the students will sometimes refuse, so now the teacher has to make a call to the office to send an administrator to come collect the bracelets so that the teacher can resume teaching for just long enough to get back into it when the administrator finally has time to show up (because s/he was dealing with another classroom full of silly bandz), and therefore the teacher has to stop again while the administrator deals with the problem, and….*deep breath*….on and on.  So one harmless little toy has proven to be a disruption for this generic classroom, not once, but twice in one class period.  So yes, schools having trouble is your kid’s fault.

April 21, 2010 Posted by | It's your kid's fault! | , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction of a New Segment: “It’s your kid’s fault!”

I’ve decided that there have been so many great stories about why are schools are in trouble over the years.  I’m going to jump on that bandwagon with a light-hearted series called “It’s your kid’s fault”.  Under this topic, you will find stories about what we as educators have to face everyday in our classrooms.  You the public want to blame teachers for poor test scores, failing schools, dropout rates, etc, etc.  These stories will show just some of the day to day annoying things that your kid does in our classrooms – for which there is very little we can do.

What do I mean?  Well, let me examine some of the consequences for minor disruptions of the classroom.  After / Before school detention?  Can’t because your kid rides the bus and doesn’t get here until 5 minutes before the bell and the bus leaves immediately after school.  Lunch detention?  Can’t because your kid is on free or reduced lunch because you don’t work so your kid has to go to the cafeteria to get food.  Oh, you say that the student should get the food and bring it to my classroom?  Can’t because federal / state laws prohibit food from leaving the cafeteria to the classrooms.  Call home?  Can’t because all 7 of the numbers you gave the school have been disconnected, are no longer in service, or do not have an answering machine, or you no longer live with the 10 other people in that house (it’s weird then, why every kid has a smartphone, yet I can’t get in touch with parents – things that make you go “hmmmm”).  Write a discipline referral?  Really?  1) for minor disruptions, that is kind of silly.  2) Admin will view it as silly and not do anything about it.  3) If it is a big enough or constant disruption that warrants a referral, then In-School Suspension (ISS) will be assigned.  So a student gets a free pass to hang out in a room and not have to deal with teachers for a day.  Sure, that will help correct the behavior!

Now look, a good teacher can maintain a certain level of order in the classroom, and a good teacher develops a rapport with his / her students so that order is the norm in the classroom.  HOWEVER, just because there is order and expectations does not mean that the disruptions do not happen regularly.  And when you have 75 students (block scheduling) or 150 students (traditional scheduling) each day, you will have constant distractions and disruptions that you have to do something about.  All of that adds up to lost instruction, not just in the amount time, but it also takes away from those that do not cause disruptions as they get distracted and might pay attention to the distraction rather than what the teacher is teaching.  Now look, take the posts in this category with a grain of salt – they are not the sole reason, nor am I trying to say that it is the sole reason for schools not doing well.  But taken together, all of these stories do make you go “hmmmm…”

With all of that said, let’s look at Silly Bandz in my next post…

April 21, 2010 Posted by | It's your kid's fault! | , , | 1 Comment

Is the American education system in trouble?

Before we launch into all the issues, we first have to examine the question “Is education in trouble?”  The reason so much is changing (and thus the reason for the creation of this blog) is because our country has accepted the notion from the media that America’s schools are failing.  This is simply untrue.  Are there problems with our schools?  Of course!  Are there schools that are failing?  Of course!  But is our whole education sysem going down the toilet?  I firmly say no.  The rest of this entry is my attempt to help you understand why I make this claim…

1) This country proudly educates everyone. We integrate students with special needs as much as possible into a regular classroom to give them an education in the “least restrictive environment.”  Because of the ever growing efforts to include as many students as possible in the regular ed classroom, more and more students who in the past never took the standardized tests (the ones that are used to measure the US against other countries), it appears that the US is falling further behind.  Rather, our scores are falling because we are making a greater effort to include everyone, and thus those who might not be, shall we say, capable of taking these standardized tests are now doing so and hurting our scores.  Years ago, students had to either sink or swim.  If they couldn’t cut it in regular classrooms, schools pulled them out and put them in “special classes.”  Those students never had to take standardized tests.  The problem, then, was that this idea began to get abused where educators would put people in those special classes who might hurt test scores for the school.  Why do that?  Because schools that scored better were given more money.  So what are other countries doing?  Many other industrialized nations have a much more sophisticated system of putting students into tracks and educating them accordingly.  Therefore only those truly college bound students end up taking the same standardized tests that ALL of our students take.  In other words, these measure compare other countries’ best and brightest with our entire melting pot, and thus the test results compare apples to oranges.

2) America’s schools are failing is the same argument that people were using for political gain back as early as the late 1800s.  Back then the argument was over the centralization vs decentralization of school systems.  All of it was born out of the idea that schools were failing our children.  So then, if you buy into the argument that schools are failing today, you should also buy into the argument that schools were failing 100 years ago too.  Afterall, there were people then making similar claims about schools just using different ideas to fix them.  The only difference between the claims then and now is 1) the antidote the reformers want to use, and 2) today we have “evidence” from research that schools are not doing well.  And if I’m not mistaken, in the last 100 years, the United States has led the world in medical, scientific, and technical advances.  We landed on the moon, for goodness sake!  And Al Gore invented the internet *grin*!  How could our education system be failing?

3) In addition to all this, I have anecdotal evidence in my former students who have gone on to greatness – they have gone to schools like Duke University, they have embarked on careers such as being an attorney, and they have returned to the classroom to educate the next generation of Americans to greatness

No, this system is not broken.  Could it be better?  Of course!  Are we pursuing the correct path towards improvement?  Absolutely not.  I hope over the course of this blog that I can shed some light on why our current course of reform is ineffective and what could be done instead to make things better.

April 21, 2010 Posted by | Failing Schools | , | 5 Comments