Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sudden Concern

Has anyone NOT heard of the documentary "Waiting For Superman"?  If you have not heard of it, you must not own a television.  No criticism about the TV but this movie is really all over the news and talk shows right now. 

I am SO glad!

No matter your opinion on the points made in this documentary, whether you agree or disagree, whether it makes you angry or you find yourself passionately in agreement . . . at least we are talking about it.

What is "Waiting For Superman"?   It is Davis Guggenheim's look at our nation's education system and why it might be broken.  It takes a hard look at public schools, charter schools, lottery systems, good teachers, bad teachers, parents, administrators, teacher's unions, politicians, and everything related to American schools and the fact that our children are failing and graduation rates are dropping.  It is a call to action.

I am so excited to see a discussion about this because I have been saying this for years.  Before you make any assumptions and start sending me hateful emails, allow me to give you some background.

My mother was a teacher.  She taught high school English and adult education.  Both my parents had master's degrees.  Education was a priority in our family. 

I have made my life about education . . . early childhood education.  I have been a private kindergarten teacher, worked as a preschool teacher, managed a childcare center and now am a district manager for the nation's largest provider of early childhood education.  I was raised in public and Department of Defense school systems. 

My children went to public schools.  I was a huge supporter of public schools and all that goes along with them.  My children didn't really apply themselves. I take full responsibility for that as a parent.  We didn't push too hard but they always pulled through and they seemed to mostly enjoy school.  They were smart and their grades were okay.  It worked.  Until my children went to high school.  The schools and their ways started to worry me when they were in middle school but it was full blown frustration by the time they were into the 9th grade.

I have written about my frustration before.  You can read some of that here.  In summary, both my children wanted to drop out at their senior year because they were failing and we could get no help from the school.  Yes . . . it was partly because of their lack of dedication.  But there is so much more to the story.  And there was NO way I would allow them to drop out. 

With my son, I changed him to private school for his senior year.  It was a great option for him and he excelled, graduating on time.  His public high school had told me there was nothing they could do.  My daughter was told the same thing.  Nothing we can do.  I called the school board and was told about an option within the school system where she could go another location and work at her own pace through an online system and with a teacher in classroom, as fast or as slow as she wanted to go.  But if she learned quickly and applied herself, she could graduate on stage with the others in her class.  Her school knew nothing of this option within it's own district.  My daughter worked hard and, in fact, finished early.  She graduated with her class as scheduled.

I have listened to the discussion on this film over the last week.  Everyone has a solution.  I do not.  I have heard we need to extend the school day by an hour.  If kids hate being there or have a poor teacher, more time in the schoolday is not going to help them.  Making the testing more difficult is not going to enhance a child's ability to learn if you are a kid who does poorly on tests or has a learning disability.  Again, I don't have an answer but I think it starts with respect.  Respect for children, respect for teachers, respect for parents.  When we first speak to others with respect, then we can find a solution. It's a start.

What ideas do you have?

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