I used to teach at a school with a banner at the entrance that stated “Failure is not an option.”
This is amazingly wrong and I wish this nation would get over this poor idea.
Failure is not only an option, it is a necessity. Children need to fail. They need to trip, crash and burn, and fall while they still have the ability to bounce. This is not to say that parents shouldn’t try to protect their children, but they need to understand that failure is not the end. Failure is a beginning, a crucible that forges a strong mind and heart that is needed in order to thrive in the world.
Failure gives us the power to overcome and conquer.
Failure gives us empathy.
Failure keeps our ego in check.
Failure is a master teacher and it is better to learn its lessons early while life is still a game. To fear failure is to allow it to conquer us.
So parents, let your children stumble. Teachers, go ahead and use the red pen. Let them drift and then help pick up the pieces so they may trip again. And again. And again. To keep failure at bay underestimates a child’s ability to overcome. Continual blocking of failure will make the eventual failure that much harder to overcome when they run into it in an adult world that lacks the time or inclination to help those that give up because something is seen to be too hard.
A reader asked me recently about why have schools close for MLK day. The point was made that these kids were getting out of school with no idea as to why or how big of an impact he had on our nation. Wouldn't it be better to keep them in school and have them study about Dr. King for the day?
This is my response -
I’ve been spending some time thinking about the issue you brought up about a day off for MLK. Unfortunately, you have run head first into an issue that is controlled entirely by money.
The main problem with any discussion about education policy in the United States is how education policy is thought of. If you listen to policy makers in other nations, they talk about education as an investment in the future. They don’t expect results today or tomorrow and they see education as a way to make a better nation generations into the future. To them education is a long term investment. Now take a moment to listen to talk of education policy in the United States. Education is a cost. It is an expenditure that must be controlled and results should be seen tomorrow if not sooner. No fast results? The cost is not worth it. Gotta protect the bottom line.
What does this have to do with a school holiday? First understand that school calendars are probably the cause of some of the most heated debates in school administration. Every person in the room, no matter how important or unimportant, no matter how informed or uninformed, wants his or her say and usually gets it. That’s a lot of voices shouting for their own cause and many many many compromises are made. Most of these compromises are made in the name of money. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars can be made or lost in a school budget based on when children are in school. Many districts across the US have looked into a four day week simply for the cost savings that can be generated by turning the lights off for an extra day. Parents screaming about the personal cost to them for daycare is the only force preventing this idea from taking hold. (Of course their voting for every tax cut that comes along is what destroyed the school budgets in the first place, but that is a rant for another time.)
You can’t find a better example of money making decisions better than the year round school argument. Countless reams of research have been printed on the benefits of year round schooling. It is well documented that year round school prevents loss of educational gains over summer. Especially for those low income and special ed students that keep getting left behind. Many have commented on the question of why is our school calendar based on an 18th century agricultural model (kids get summer break so they can stay home and help with the harvest) when we are educating for the 21st century and beyond? The answer is money. Forgetting about the argument about teacher pay, just consider the thought of keeping a campus of 2000 teenagers cool in the middle of August. Who is going to pay that bill?
Money even dictates the time of day that class starts. Just as in the year round argument numerous studies have proven what every parent knows: teenagers don’t do mornings. So why don’t high schools start later in the day? Bus schedules. It costs too much to keep the busses running all day and many high school students can use alternate transportation to get to school so they get the short end of the stick. The district could buy more busses and hire more drivers but…
As far as keeping students in school and having a day to look at the impact of MLK when are you going to fit it in? Schools already loose close to a month of teaching time each year to various federal, state, and district mandated testing, not to mention all of the various other social education programs such as say no to drugs and various be nice to each other programs. More days could be added to the calendar, but it costs money to open the doors and remember costs in education in the United States are to be avoided whenever possible. Especially for academics. Also, there is no test covering MLK so there is no reason to lose instructional time on something that is not tested. That is the ultimate reality in education right now.
few years ago I started working on a satirical work on education reform. I tabled the project at the time as it was simply making me far too angry and spiking my blood pressure. Sometimes ya just gots ta back off.
I came across some of my notes for this the other day and thought I would share theme here.
I give you (drum role please) the education glossary! Next time someone starts talking about education reform you now have a reference for what the hell they are talking about.
Accountability - a word that only applies to teachers.
AIMS - see Arizona's Instrument for Measuring Standards
Arizona's Instrument for Measuring Standards - Arizona's high stakes test, mandated by NCLB, to the tune of 12 to 17 million dollars. Depending on whom you ask. Each state has its own test with its own cute name. Also serves as a great way to cut about two weeks of instruction time out of the school year.
Benchmark assessment - quarterly version of AIMS. Benchmark tests are also a great way to cut around another week of instruction time. Because it is quarterly it totals up to around 4 weeks of lost instruction each school year.
Bubble sheet - the answer document used on test where students bubble in A, B, C, or D. Used most often on high stakes tests because they are cheap to grade and are well known for their lack of ability in testing higher order thinking skills.
Collaboration - the time when teachers are supposed to get together to discuss teaching practices and what works or does not work with particular shared students. This time is more often used by district administration to show power points in order to sell teachers on the flavor of the month.
Common Core - A widely discredited idea that was discovered by Bill Gates after sitting unused and unwanted for many years. It operates under the main idea that learning can be done on the industrial revolution model that puts raw material on one end of a line and pumps out identical widgets at the end of the line on a regular basis. See also - NCLB, No Child Left Behind, curriculum, flavor of the month
Corrective action - What happens when the school improvement plan fails. This involves the state firing all the teachers at a school and hiring new ones. The only problem with this is that by then the school has such a reputation that no experienced teacher will teach there so all the state can get are new, inexperienced, teachers
Curriculum - see flavor of the month
Data driven - Teachers should only make teaching decisions based on test data. Even if the data disproves the conclusion.
District assessment - See benchmark assessment (notice how it's kinda' like Eskimos and snow?)
Diploma mill – the high school version of social promotion. Positive version of Dropout factory. See also: social promotion.
Dropout factory – What high schools become to alleviate the overcrowding caused by social promotion. Negative version of Diploma mill. See also: Social promotion. (Important note! If you can convince a student to transfer before dropping out it does not count as a dropout!)
Flavor of the month - an all-new way to teach that will magically make all students superstars. Usually something re-packaged from 10 years ago with some new words and has a life span of about two to three years. Or until the next new superintendent or principal comes on board.
High stakes testing - any test that is pass/fail for graduation. See also - AIMS
IEP - Individual Education Plan A document written for each student in special education. States continually change the requirements for this document in order to deny funding to schools because the paperwork was not done correctly. The ultimate goal is to have a standardized Individual Education Plan that works for all students. (seriously, you can't make this stuff up folks)
Instructional coach - A teacher that has been taken out of the classroom to "coach" other teachers. In reality, nobody actually knows what this person does.
NCLB - see No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind - This federal education reform act turns schools into factories by forcing them to focus on numbers and timetables. see also - Common Core
Pacing calendar – A document that states when students should be learning a certain skill throughout his or her K-12 experience. see also - Common Core
Performance based pay - The idea that paying teachers based on how students take tests will suddenly draw super teachers. Just like bonuses keep all those great minds at work on Wall Street.
Performance objective - A long list of stuff that state politicians feel need to be taught at each grade level. Usually numbered for quick and easy reference. An example from the state of Arizona -
M10-S1C1-01 . Justify with examples the relation between the number system being used (natural numbers, whole numbers, integers, rational numbers and irrational numbers) and the question of whether or not an equation has a solution in that number system
Ping Pong student - an unfortunate by-product of school choice created by parents that refuse to admit they might have a part of their child's education. These parents move their children from school to school, often several times during a single school year always blaming the school for low grades and behavior problems. What these parents fail to realize is the constant school change makes the grades and behavior worse. The most extreme case of this saw a student withdraw and re-enroll in a twelve-hour period.
PO - see Performance Objective
School improvement plan - A plan that "helps" schools raise test scores by taking money out of the classroom and makes teachers and principals leave their schools and classrooms so that they may go to trainings and then meetings to tell the state what they will be doing to raise test scores. State officials are surprised when these incredibly helpful tactics somehow do not help bring up test scores.
Social promotion - The act of moving a student to the next grade even if that student has not completed the required work to move on. This happens most often in middle school and is driven largely by the need to show positive numbers and alleviate overcrowding in the elementary and middle schools. see also - Diploma mill, Dropout factory.
Student - What once was a human being that is being turned into a data point for the purposes of tracking and having a product to sell to the public.
Smart board - A 21st century version of the overhead projector. Unlike an overhead projector, it is interactive. Just like an overhead projector, it has a tendency to make students fall asleep.
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