Do you need more time in your life? Are you not getting enough "me" moments in your schedule?
Well I have found some items that used to be assumed of parents, but it turns out you no longer need to fret about these things. From now on, don't bother:
- reading with your children
- making your children read
- fussing about bed times
- providing nutritious meals
- taking your kids to museums or other educational outings
- supplanting regular TV with educational programming
- talking with your children
- helping them with their homework
What's that? You thought these things mattered? Well I am here to say that you have been woefully misinformed.
You need to understand that a good teacher can make up for the absence of all those things. With the flick of his or her instructional wand, a teacher can make the child who has these things - and the child who does not - perform exactly the same. The adage Practice Makes Perfect is SO old fashioned. We now know that INSTRUCTION makes perfect!
Today I met with our district reading people to discuss the coming year. We were brainstorming about what changes we might make next year to improve reading scores (I teach at a Title 1 school and the majority of my 6th graders read at a 3rd grade level).
I mentioned that we might set aside some money each year for teachers to purchase "high interest" books. Our students rarely read outside of the classroom. However, each year I usually have a book that captures their imagination. This year it was "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". I have about a half dozen from the series and demand was far exceeding the supply. Having money available to buy additional copies would allow us to strike while the iron is hot.
This idea had no merit with the district reading representatives - it had nothing to do with my instruction.
"I think it does," I replied. "Our students struggle because they are never actually reading outside of my instruction. I need them wanting to pick up books that are not an assignment."
"If they are given the instruction they need, they will be able to read," came the reply.
I am always perplexed when I encounter this position. I said, "So, in general, a student who practices nightly at a skill, and a student who never practices that skill outside of a teacher's instruction will be at the same proficiency?"
The rep countered, "But they will not receive the same instruction. The teacher provides differentiated instruction to the child who does not practice."
"But you're saying that at the end of the year, the two students will be on the same level?" I said incredulously.
"That is exactly what I am saying!" the rep replied in a frustrated tone.
I shook my head. "I don't believe that for one second."
The rep threw up her hands. "Then why are you even here?!"
This is why, as a general rule, I keep my opinions to myself at my job. I am a shades of gray type of person, and I forget how black and white people will filter my words. It seems that because I insinuated that my instruction doesn't affect everything, I must be a defeatist with no expectations.
Race to the Top" and "No Child Left Behind" programs are based on this perspective, which I have called the Teacher as Savior model. Under this model, things like pre-requisite skills, personal aptitude, personal motivation, parent involvement, home environment, practice, etc. are of no consequence. A teacher can render all of these other factors inert.
Is there any other area of life where we would take this view? That all of those other components have no bearing on proficiency, but only the instruction.
I believe the Teacher as Savior model, which is growing in America, will drain the life out of an already fractured system.
My advice to parents (if they are concerned about their child's educational outcome), is read to your children, have them read nightly, turn off the Nickelodeon and put in some Bill Nye, get them to bed on time and limit their sugar intake, make sure they are doing their homework, and see everything you do together as a learning opportunity. Do these things, and my instruction time with them will be SO much more beneficial. Skip these things, and the value of my instruction will be greatly reduced.
I am the voice of one teacher calling out in the educational wilderness - Prepare ye the way for your children and make straight the path of their learning!