Most everyone agrees that there are some major problems with American public education. As a math teacher, I've been hearing a lot about Singapore Math, plain math with lots of repetition, and I could not be more pleased. American math textbooks try so hard to be cool, and any parent of a tween or teen can tell you that nothing is as eye-rollingly embarassing someone or something inherently geeky trying to look hip.
Let me make an announcement about math here: it's not fun! Parts of speech are not fun! Subject-verb agreement is boring. Memorizing spelling words or times tables is not as interesting as texting or playing Modern Warfare. Guess what? You have to know these things in order to be an educated person, and tit is important to be educated. We've been trying to "engage" and "hook" the kids because so many of them are not interested in learning. The best students are the enthusiastic ones that find life and learning fun and fascinating. For some reason, and I have plenty ideas as to why, there are less and less of these types. No matter how many manipulatives you drag out, whether or not you have them write a rap (or heaven forbid, you try to rap), regardless of the math games you invent, kids will tune out and not be engaged. I even took my students on a field trip and asked them what that thought of it, and their refrain was "boring".
I feel bad for these kids. If they are this morose as children, I can't imagine how dreary their adulthoods will be. There is truly nothing I, as a teacher, can do for these students. I only see my students 6 hours a week for 40 weeks, or 240 hours. That is 10 days, or 30 eight-hour days. Even with 11 year olds, there is a lot of life to counteract in that time. An educator's job is not to entertain children, it is to teach. Learning takes work and responsibility. Florida introduced a parent accountability system in their state assembly, which is a great idea, but difficult to enforce. If parents are given an F because their children do not do homework or get to school on time, do you think they will be mortified, when they are currently unperturbed that their children are failing? Probably not.
But what can we do? Part of the problem with teaching is the lack of authority that teachers have. Want better education? Give teachers and schools real power and control. Here's my plan: public education remains free unless you are disrespectful in school. Stop the tyranny of the individual. When a child has more than three incidents of contempt for education or educators, you are no longer guaranteed a free education. The parents will now be responsible for directly subsidizing their child's public education. If a parent is partially underwriting the cost of schooling, and the child continues to exhibit disdain for authority, the parent's percentage of the cost will be raised and the state's will be reduced. And if a particular student really does not stop disrupting others' education, then the child can be removed from public schools entirely. The parent will be responsible for providing and funding their child's education.
Will this be a perfect workaround? I doubt it. If I think that teachers are under fire now, imagine what would happen if the parents' wallets were involved. But, I think it would help our students learn, which is the point of education. It is no coincidence that authoritarian states, such as Singapore, that protect that the well-being of society more than individual liberties, perform better academically. Most kids are followers. If you subdue or remove the worst instigators, the chaos will lessen and the teacher can teach. My goodness, wouldn't I love to be able to teach. And the students who want to learn will be able to. Doesn't that sound utopian?
I have crooked teeth from my parents and a wacky arm from a stroke. My daughter describes me as funny and smart, while she describes the other Linda from Mommy and Me as pretty and nice. So, I'm not pretty nor nice. I love the French people, French language (I'm fluent), French food, culture, architecture... In short, all of France! I'll read anything in front of me. I know more about middle school math than, well, anyone, INCLUDING my middle school math teacher husband (let's see if he reads this). I'm not happy if I'm not painting something.