Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Education of a Person, Part 1

I have been involved in education most of my life. I went to school. I played school. I became a teacher. I taught at a rural public K-12 school, a private Catholic high school, and a suburban middle school. I substituted, I tutored, and I volunteered.

In 2001, my oldest daughter was not even 2 years old yet when George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Legislation. This legislation, co-authored by two Democrats (Miller, CA, and Kennedy, MA) and signed into law by a republican (Bush) seemed like an amazing bi-partisan partnership that would benefit schools and children everywhere. I have to admit that I did not pay too much attention to the legislation, as my child was years from entering Kindergarten. I guess I should have educated myself on this particular piece of legislation.

The No Child Left Behind Act has caused such a stir. It even caused a heated debate between myself and one of my best friends. We are both teachers, but we are on opposite sides of the debate. I felt awful about her situation, but I also felt terrible about my situation. She was a teacher who was hired to teach English to 6th grade middle school students. She taught on a team and after many years at the school, the science teacher on her team left the school. She wanted to teach science, but found she was not allowed to teach it formally until she received proper instruction and became certified in that area. She was mad! She was a good teacher and did a fine job with science in the past, and felt like the NCLB Act was causing teachers to squander their talents just because of a prickly rule. For me, I lived in a rural community. My kids went to a tiny school, and the high school was just as tiny. It was common practice for one teacher to do multiple-duty. What I mean by that is, it wasn't unheard of to learn Algebra from the Health teacher, who also taught Driver's Ed. This happened simply because there were not enough students to require a separate teacher for every single subject sometimes. Or maybe, one teacher plus a half-teacher. Well, the "half-teacher" can teach half one subject, half another. You can probably see why this would create a problem for children getting a quality education. You want a teacher to know their subject matter!

I saw what I thought I knew about NCLB. I still had a lot to learn. Thus began my journey to figure out what all the uproar was about. Why are people so up in arms about this legislation? Isn't it the same legislation that has been around for decades, just with a new name? Are people just pissed so that they can find one more reason to dump on Bush? Or is the new legislation severely flawed?

For so many years, I had been behind the teacher's desk in Education. It was now my turn to become the student. I want to know, to understand, to get all the facts. I want to form an opinion of my own, irregardless of my political ties. I want to educate myself.

Tomorrow, part 2!


stephanie (bad mom) said...

This was a prettily packaged piece of garbage, I'm afraid. And you're right - it's hard to discuss because most people know/defend one part while not grasping the other parts.

Good luck with this :)

Bridgett said...

Oh, sigh....I was already out of teaching when this came to fruition.

Religion, politics, education, laundry: it's all controversy, all the time over here! ;^)

Bridgett said...

(Oh, and you might be surprised to find out what side I'm on in the education debate, actually....)

Tammie said...

i just wanted you to know that I posted a response to what you said over at my blog. I wasn't sure if you got a chance to read it. keep in mind that my experience with NCLB act is here in Florida. The education system here never has been a good one, so that might have some influence on my opinions about the whole thing. NCLB has made a bad system even worse.

Also, I wanted to tell you that even though we totally disagree, I think this is a great dialogue to have because we basically only want what's best for kids in public school. The kids that I feel are the ones suffering due to NCLB, are those with parents not interested enough, or too busy, to have the discussion in the first place.

The Nice One said...

Ha ha ha...ooooh I can't wait to get into this one. Looking forward to tomorrows installment.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I'm pretty much hoping you just inform me what no child left behind entails tomorrow becuase I have no idea. Honestly. I know my aunt who taught special ed hated it because she said those students should never be expected to reach a certain level and the system was forcing it on them and the teachers due to NCLB.


dddiva said...

Oh man, how this one slays me.
One of my best friends with special needs children loves it as from her perspective her children are keeping up with the rest of the class.
OTOH my children who require gifted classes are bored spitless even in the pre-ap and ap classes as they are forced to crawl through with the slowest learners.
How or why lowering things to the least common denominator was thought to be brilliant is beyond me.
Maybe as a teacher you have an entrirely different perspective and I am looking forward to reading the rest tomorrow.

Mandy said...

Can't wait to read part 2. I go back and forth with what I think about NCLB. I was a teacher in the public schools for 9 years (just quit this past spring).

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I can't really comment here since I don't know much of anything on it.
I am betting you love a good debate though--am I right? Or am I wrong? ;)

TêPê said...

I live in Portugal and here, to teach whatever it is you must have a degree... It doesn't matter if you're an expert... No degree no classes of that discipline. And I totally agree with that! I don't want my kid to learn anything if not with a person that has study the entire thing related to that.