9 Reasons Education is Confusing

9 Reasons Education is Confusing by LaTilya Rashon

teacher-at-board

I attended Center Junior High School under the esteemed Dr. Robert T. Bussey, who was my mother’s principal when she was in school.  The city of Waycross  schools and Ware County schools merged the 1994 school term and contrary to some of the horror stories of that merger, middle school in 1996 was way different than middle school now in 2016.  Other than being two decades apart, I will explain the nine reasons education is confusing.

9. Grading System Changed: Before teachers had more autonomy of their grades because simply speaking, students either completed their work or they didn’t.  There were no categories like Assessment of Learning, Assessment During Learning, Homework, Classwork, Test/Quizzes/Projects or anything else for that matter.  There were no percentages for the categories such as 50% classwork, 40% assessments, 10% homework.  Teachers graded work as it was assigned, recorded it in the grade book, averaged the all the grades and that was what went on the report card.  Now, teachers have a certain number of assignments per category so now it’s almost impossible for students to fail a class unless they choose not to complete any work.

Teacher at Chalkboard

8. Limited Class Options:  I had the option to Agriculture, Life Skills, Health, and Career Connections with Mrs. Ganas where we learned about the Occupational Outlook Handbook and was able to job shadow someone for a full day and receive a class grade.  Now middle school students are limited to P.E. without the Health class component, Band, Reading or Math/Study Skills class, Technology, and Art if it has not been cut from the budget.  We were somewhat ability grouped, and changed classes by crossing over with other homerooms which made a competitive and productive roster.  In my teaching environment students travel from class to class on their grade level with their assigned homeroom everyday, and the class roster is split into fours assigning these chunks of students to the same connections classes.  There is not enough variety in the day.

7.  Apathetic Students:  I was required in middle school to do a Social Science Fair project or a Science Fair project.  Teachers communicated the expectations to students, sent home parent letters, and gave ample time in school and after school to work on projects.  I was lucky enough to attend the regional science fair at South Georgia College in 1993 for my project, Does Artificial Light Effect Plant Growth?  Now students majorly choose to not complete a science fair project and accept the grades of zero that come along with it.  It seems as if students have given up to the point science fairs are optional.

6.  Standardized Assessments:  The ITBS test is now used for instructional planning and a formative assessment.  It gives your child a ranking in school based on their results, but its an ability grouping tool.  Students did not feel the pressure to test well in 1996 because everything counted, so you were expected to do well.  I am guilty of this, but when my students enter the door I start the year off mentioning state assessments that they know are sure to come.  My class is based on test results, so my students learn fast why they are placed in my Reading class.  It’s tough for students that know they struggle, but are now in middle school trying to play catch up.

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5.  Teachers Are Younger:  Now you would think that age is nothing but a number when dealing with professionals, but I know that when I was in school my teachers were older, or shall I say their dress code was.  My teachers hardly wore jeans, always wore dress pants, blouses, and dresses with modest make-up.  Now when you walk into schools there are a lot children that look more mature than their teachers.  It’s hard for urban middle schoolers to respect someone who is the same age as their older siblings.

4.  Teacher Preparation:  I came in as a TAPP (Teacher Alternative Preparation Program) teacher from a different career field, the military, so I had life and work experience.  A lot f the teacher pedagogy that is learned traditionally is valuable, but teaching by the book is a no-go for middle school.  This works well for early childhood educators, but at the middle school level when students are trying to find their identity, you have to play it by ear.  The bricks and mortar way to teacher preparation gives teachers false interpretations of a classroom, so sometimes at the middle school level, teachers don’t last long.  I’ll touch on this later.

3.  Social Media:  There weren’t computers in the classroom 20 years ago.  The classroom equipped with computers was the computer lab and that was the typing class.  We had the old typing lessons that taught you your home row keys and by the end of the semester you learned basic typing skills.  The only phone you had was a house phone.  Now kids of all ages have cellular phones, and some of those phones are better than adult phones.  Social media is how kids communicate, rather than writing friendly notes.  There is a whole new language (text talk) that is being spoken by this generation.  I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t have social media, however in school it is a major distraction.

social-media-manager

2.  Parental Involvement:  Open house, report card pick-up, parent-teacher conferences, athletic events, PTO meetings,  and awards banquets have low parent participation.  I remember being in school and my mom never missed an event.  Now we can barely get a parent to show up for their highly disruptive child.  New age parents are not like parents from decades past.  It is heart-breaking to know that a lot of the students today are raising themselves.  Schools need parents to meet them halfway.

1. Lack of Consistency: I entered into the profession of teaching eight years ago and I am now on my seventh district superintendent.  I live in one city, but teach in another and I see that changeover is more severe in my district.  From formative assessments, progress monitoring tools, academic expectations, and changes in district wide leadership nothing has been placed for longer than two academic years to see progress.  It doesn’t help that new state assessments have changed, so have promotion requirements.  I’m not a strategist, but it appears that once leaders leave the classroom, they become out of touch with the classroom struggle.  Teachers are now simply collecting a check rather than genuinely teaching.  Education represents stability, but in some cases teachers are providing a disservice to their students.

I’m sure there are more reasons, but these stood out for me the most.

 

5 Things My Single Mom Taught Me

I grew up in the small streets of Waycross, Georgia where there was a clear division in the sides of town, dirt roads that you didn’t drive down, and noticeable identities of jocks and band geeks.  No matter what, when I looked around me I always knew who to lean on, and other than God, my mom was my strength.

I didn’t live in Cherokee Heights but was fortunate enough to be inside the homes of my cheerleading friends that did.  No matter what was lacking in my life on my side of town throughout it all my mom modeled self-sufficiency to the fullest.  I learned a lot of things watching her and those things shape my continued existence.

Thing One:  Independence

My mom had me when she was 18 years old and my dad was around for a quick minute before he was never thought of again.  He made appearances in my life, but my mom set the ground rules.  I was a latch-key kid at a very early age so many times I looked after myself until my mom came home from work.  Not having others around all of the time, made me rely on myself as I was learning to navigate through life.  I studied my mom make things happen for herself and how strong she seemed all of the time.  She displayed her independence by going without when we didn’t have what we need and not placing her small family in vulnerable situations that we couldn’t return from.  She worked, she paid the bills, food was always on the table, most importantly she survived the social woes of single parentdom.

Thing Two:  Provision

In kindergarten I left for school one day and there weren’t any presents under the tree, but when I returned home the tree was full.  My god-father had purchased every single toy that I wanted, but of course who could resist my six year old face.  However, by the time I was 15 Christmas was not that big of a deal and I found that money was hard to come by.  I never really knew my mom’s financial situation growing up.  I just knew that sometimes we had and more than what was needed and other times she stretched what she had to cover the necessities.  I can recall things being a little tight here and there, and one year for Christmas she uttered the words that she’d do what she could.  She was my only provider, and watching her work tirelessly I know she had to be a praying woman because even when money was scarce our needs were always met.

Thing Three:  Imperfection

My mom worked crazy hours.  While working at a plywood factory called Champion, she would pull 12, up to 16 hour shifts and would come home smelling like wood, mildew, and steam.  I hated it!  Unfortunately the long hours would be accompanied by mood swings.  We disagreed a lot during those few years and I said some pretty horrible things and so did she.  Some children look at their moms and see mean women that don’t understand life.  I looked at my imperfect mom and loved her with all my heart.  My mom was perfectly imperfect, making mistakes raising me, and we we learning and figuring out life together.  That’s what happens when you’re an only child, and you work through the imperfect moments to learn a lesson.

Thing Four:  Trust

It is true that it takes years to build trust and only a second to lose it.  However, I instinctively trust my mom.  I can not recall a single time in my life that I doubted who would be here for me.  I didn’t want to trust her advice as a teenager because I wanted to make my own mistakes.  Growing into an adult in my hardest times, my mom listened to my deepest fears without judgement, hugged me tight, and reassured me that there was always a bright side to every down side.  I don’t have to second guess her loyalty.  When I am reminded of failed trust relationships, I question if and when I ever had second thoughts about someone being in my life.  When I think about my mom I smile and if I think about others and frown, they are not worth my trust.  It may seem juvenile, but one thing for sure is that my mom is not going anywhere.

Thing Five:  Love

Love is a word that comes and goes, few people really know what it means to really love somebody.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13: 7).  Unconditional support comes from her direction.  No matter how many times I feel inadequate, unworthy, and outright lost in my decisions and life, I know that I can count on my mother’s love.  I strive to love my children each day as much as she has loved me.  I strive to love my neighbor as I love myself.  My mother’s love is never-ending, so when people I allow people into my life I’m optimistic.  When I hold on to people it is with the kind of love my mom showed me.  It’s hard sometimes when you want to shut down, but love is a safe place for me when it comes to her.  I in turn want love to be a safe place for my sons when they think of me.

My mom did it alone, but I learned so much.

My Father Was Absent

On the year mark of my brother’s death I was overwhelmed with the grief as I made my way to school.  I immediately texted my sister to let her know she crossed my heart and mind but that reopened a wound inside of me that has yet to heal.

There is still one man…biological father…he spread his seed and produced children that really don’t know him at all.  At least I feel like I don’t know him.

At times in my life I remember reaching out to him to simply ask him to be more present in my life.  It was never about money,  I was just a little girl who knew her father but didn’t understand why he wasn’t very present in my life.  I had a daddy, my godfather, who did an awesome job being a father figure, but my last name is Williams…and that is the man who should have been there.

Four women had their lives affected by his handsome charm I am sure.  But a woman only knows a man that is hers in the moment. I’m sure each mother loved my father, but did he really love them?  After all, there are five children.

Five children grew up estranged because even though we know each other, the centerpiece to our connectivity, our father…didn’t bridge those relationships.  I have an older sister, regardless to the circumstances, two older brothers (R.I.P. Tim), and a younger brother. There is a 10 year gap between my youngest brother and I, and for me I’m somewhat cherishing his presence.

Sadly, we are all still 1 father, 4 mothers, and 5 children because my father was absent.