My EdWorld: How to Pick Up the Pieces
by Bernard Keller
Maybe it’s time for me to move on. Maybe I’ve reached the end of this road since my world doesn’t seem to coincide with the world of education as it is presently constructed.
In my world, you can’t be a teacher in two or three years. You CAN teach, but becoming a teacher, that takes time.
In my world, not everybody learns at the same speed or the same level – that means everybody’s NOT going to get an eighty-five or a ninety percent. In my world, there are gonna be some 65’s and some 50’s. Some people are going to fall and some of those who fall are going to redouble their efforts and make a comeback.
In fact, in my world some of the most successful people are the people who fell, but chose not to stay down for the count. (Truth be told, with few exceptions, this is probably the story of many successful CEO’s, entertainers, writers, lawyers, athletes, teachers, and even parents!).
In my world, you challenge, you don’t make it easier to pass a class or graduate by diluting the subject content, or reducing the number of challenging classes, or “limiting” the number of students who can fail a class because the failures “reflect the teacher’s ineptitude or lack of competence.”
In my world, you understand that school is not isolated nor set off into a vacuum. You understand that school provides more than just knowledge, that part of its job is to help socialize and civilize, to help students recognize that they are not the center of the universe, that the rest of the world thinks it’s pretty special, too, and is not just going to move to the side to let them pass.
School, among other things, is supposed to reinforce the concept that one needs to work for what one wants, that one cannot choose to do nothing and complain when he/she receives nothing but feel he/she is “entitled” to a grade that symbolizes or suggests that he/she put in effort which in reality the individual did not invest.
In my world, school is a place to hold a mirror up the face of the student so he/she can clearly see where he/she is with respect to the people with whom he/she is competing. Many students are being lulled into a false sense of security and success with inflated, “rating and percentage” driven grades teachers are “forced” to give.
Maybe my world has it all wrong; maybe it’s simply out of touch with the “real world”.
Maybe having more tests, numbers, and assessments, but less knowledge and substance is the way it’s supposed to be.
Maybe the appearance of activity is actually more important than that activity’s product.
Maybe the change is good, even if it harms the students or fails to improve the situation. Maybe saying the 85 % graduation rate the NYCDOE claims in June 2012 in which only 20% of that 85% was accepted into college and only 5% of that 85% is projected to remain is good.
Perhaps the way it is the way it should be, but I have to be honest with you – it doesn’t seem like the way it should be to me. What do you think?
Bernard Keller is a four decade education veteran, 35 years of which were spent at Stevenson High School in the Bronx, teaching English. He has created innovative methods to teach writing the essay and parts of speech, as well as co-founding an SAT program that operated in Harlem for thirty years.
He has mentored teachers, served as the keynote speaker at graduations and special events, and has facilitated workshops and professional development programs for schools and school districts. Together with his wife, he is the co-founder of BASK Consortium, created to provide viable solutions to ensure healthy, education empowered outcomes and lives.