This I Believe

Linda - Westminster, Maryland
Entered on January 15, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

Education is the answer. Yet education is also the problem. The more I teach, the more I believe this.

As a newly minted teacher full of vigor and the leftover idealism of the seventies, the goal was to do was to teach one child how to learn. Education had the power to strip away the ignorance and solve every problem.

The one child turned into a classroom of children and then the classroom became overcrowded. Still, each eureka moment, those times when a face lit up in understanding, was a joy. It was hard but it mostly worked.

The vigor became threadbare from rubbing up against the sides of the institutional box. The time spent on lunch money and book orders cut into prime teaching moments. Playground and bus duties shoved planning time into the hours at home. Meetings and regulations became more important than the learning; paperwork trumped all.

The final blow to my endless idealism came in the form of a survey. The Special Education Supervisor requested that track of what we did and for how long. Surprisingly, planning lessons, meetings, conferring with parents and other teachers came in second place. Paperwork won, taking over a third of the time. Direct instruction with the neediest of kids came in third. Third! Unbelieving, I took all my instructional time for the week and divided it per child. I was the Special Education Resource Teacher, the front line in helping these kids to be successful, and what I had for each of them individually was 7 minutes.

Third. Seven. These numbers blew me right out of the classroom. I went on a search. The private schools did better, but most were not equipped to handle the “special child”. Too often the kids in the middle did all right but the potential of the ones on both edges was lost or wasted. Individualized tutoring worked exceptionally well but it was expensive and inefficient. The travesty of seven minutes still disturbed me.

Then the search got personal. My son was diagnosed with Disgraphia. His educational configuration went from being a delighted sponge to a sullen brick wall. The educational box simply did not suit him.

Education did prove to be the answer. Research discovered different types of learning styles and different types of intelligences. Methods filtered down to teachers on how to engage auditory learners like him. Tutors helped, computers helped even more. After a long drag through middle school and high school, college has reopened his delight in education. Education is the answer. It is also the problem. I believe that we must begin to teach in another way. The Henry Ford model of education where each child comes to the same place for the same bit of information at a predetermined time needs to give way. We know that each child learns in his or her own way and own time. I believe that we need to look to Education to solve the problem of Education.