I probably have one of the most “well-rounded” educational backgrounds you will encounter in a kindergarten teacher. That isn’t a statement of pride as the result of planning and accomplishment. On the contrary, it is merely a statement of fact based on the results of strange circumstances, poor planning, failure, and sheer determination. I offer these highlights of my education as evidence:
- I attended seventeen schools in three states before completing high school. This means my education included a variety of methods taught by a variety of teachers and forced me to adapt and adjust quickly to each. I was given opportunities in city schools that I didn’t have in country schools and vice-versa. I found myself in classes of fifteen and classes of forty. I was forced by state mandates to take classes in P.E., music, art, foreign language (German), science, government, state history (CA and OK) and business. I also took shorthand, typing, and home ec. And believe it or not I learned to swim and play tennis, softball, basketball, and volleyball…none of them well!
- I entered college in the middle of my senior year of high school and planned to get a degree in English with a minor in art. Thus, I gained some extra courses in literature, writing, and art. I attended a couple of semesters, but after a divorce and major move I quit college to work.
- I took advertising and marketing classes at a community college as part of my working career.
- I decided that real estate looked like a promising career so I took real estate classes, but found that I wasn’t aggressive enough for sales.
- I returned to college to become a nurse, but the anatomy classes proved to be too difficult for me. I did add some sociology, psychology, and biology classes to my repertoire.
- I took several photography classes, just for fun.
- I returned to college one last time for a degree in early education and planned to minor in art. Didn’t quite complete the art requirement because of constant scheduling conflicts with the ceramics class, so I have lots of art training, but not that particular piece of paper. I continued on and received a Master’s in administration.
- Along the way I’ve also taken a variety of classes just for fun. There have been so many that I have lost track, but here are a few: piano, Cajun cooking, genealogy, poetry, novel writing, parenting, and scarf tying. No that last one is not a joke! I learned “25 Ways to Tie a Scarf” as part of my Macy’s training. If you are training personnel you have to know those details! And don’t ask…I’ve forgotten all but about five.
I offer this crazy background rehash as a preface to my scattered thoughts this morning. Oklahoma has been on a mission these past few years to make sure that every child can read. Beginning next year our third graders will read on grade level OR ELSE! While that expectation is commendable, and you know I have offered my opinion about many aspects of that in previous blogs, it begs some questions.
Will we, because of the limitations of time and money, put so much emphasis on reading and the testing of reading skills that we abandon the arts and sciences, thus neglecting to give children a reason to desire to read? Children quickly lose interest in reading simply for the sake of learning new reading skills. They want to read stories and fascinating facts and instructions for projects. In my education reading was simply a tool, a means by which I could do something else. “Reading well” was never my primary goal in life.
Will we stamp “failure” on those children who can’t read well but might have a chance to make a living in industry or sports or art or a dozen different careers where superior reading skills may be secondary to other talents? The new laws say that our children must read “on grade level”. What about those who are just shy of that mark? Education has in the past discriminated against groups by gender and color; will we soon do the same based on reading skills?
Will teachers with a well-rounded education now be considered obsolete? Part of the state’s new plan is to make sure that kindergarten teachers are trained as “reading specialists”. It has been my own experience that my education is in fact lacking in psychology and law classes. Both are necessary to deal with parents, new education requirements, and children with disabilities. Many of our problems in the classroom begin outside the school walls and must be dealt with on a daily basis. Many of the pressures to change our teaching methods begin with political agendas and involve legal issues that I have to read several times to understand- even though I have superior reading skills!
I see the day coming when my kind will not be welcome in education. It was the original intent of our forefathers that public education would create citizens with a broad knowledge of the world and they would use that knowledge to prosper. If that is still our goal then perhaps we need to take a closer look at our plan to achieve it.