In two high profile articles in The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek, the country is reminded once again that not only does K-12 education have collosal challenges, some teachers now have to go.
He knew how to advise schools to adopt a better curriculum or raise standards or develop better communication channels between teachers and principals. But he realized that he had no clue how to advise schools about their main event: how to teach. (From the New York Times)
K-12 education, with all its highly publicized issues, has become a labyrinth for change agents and policy makers. So many people have their hands on so many parts, that it has become truly confusing–at least from an observer’s eyes–what the real problems are. One thing we all know for sure, America’s children are bearing the brunt of all these public confrontations. Soon enough, when they grow up, we might just know the impact of a population that reads and writes below the level of most of the literate world. A frightening prospect for a country that prides itself for being “the first world.” America’s future? Think again.
I told my mother earlier, that as an educator, I have thought about entering the K-12 profession. But for a few reasons, I may be too much of an “alien” in their world. First, I don’t have kids and am not planning to have any. I personally think that teachers with children get much of their training at home. Parental patience is a gift that can’t be taught. Second, I was privately educated–in another country! The public school system is foreign to me (as I am to them). In the Philippines, we have both Elementary and High School in ten years! Ten! Four year colleges were still a time for growing up. I often wonder why American kids have to stay in school that long. Given the state of many public schools, they must be so discontented they can’t wait to get out. Since they grow up so fast in this country, their pubertal minds are probably somewhere else. So much for teaching them Shakespeare when they want to practice his life lessons at sixteen.
Last, and worthy of another paragraph, I have spent most of my working life in Adult Education. Yes, with Adults.
Adult Learners are Their Parents
The four years I taught in the welfare system of New York made me look at the K-12 issues directly by staring at the eyes of the parents responsible for these kids. Many of my students were too caught in the systemic traps of poverty to pay attention to the educational values that America has cherished for decades. Many of them were single mothers who were on the constantly revolving doors of unemployment and welfare programs. Their literacy issues might be familiar to a K-12 teacher who deal with them every day, except they’re not children. And if we connect one dot to another, we might ask ourselves, what happens when the children go home to these parents? What does education mean to those who don’t understand it, or worse, don’t value it in life?
The biggest irony of all is this: for the past years, my students have been younger. Adult literacy programs have become the repository for those who drop out of high school. And because of the lack of supportive environment, many of them are having children, too.
So goes the cycle.
Considering the many employment opportunities in K-12, I have decided to stay in Adult Literacy Education. It may be tough to find a job in my underfunded field right now, but I am a believer in families, in strong families. The problems we see around us did not emerge from the streets. Children just don’t suddenly learn to pick up guns and start shooting each other. They don’t just start using the N word because they think it’s cool. They just don’t get disconnected from the lessons in American history. In so many ways, it all began at home.
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