Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking Baby Steps

In the article Palm Beach County students will see many changes when school starts Tuesday, the school board member says, "There's no point in dreaming little dreams...You don't create change a little baby step at the time; that has been ineffective…”

I so totally disagree with this school board member. I wonder if she ever taught in the school system or anywhere else. Has she never taught her own children something or another person? You have to start with the little dreams and you have to start with the baby steps. I’m not saying that you don’t have high hopes or expectations but you have to start small and work your way up. I believe that if you don’t do the baby steps, then you overwhelm others so much that they give up.

When babies learn to walk, they don’t take off running. When they learn to eat solid food, we don’t give them a steak. When they learn to eat, we give them a spoon, not a fork and knife. Why should anything else be different? What would be accomplished if we gave them a steak and a knife and expected them to run right off the bat? Our expectations are unrealistic and set the children up for failure.

The same thing will happen if we do this in schools. We can’t expect students and teachers to take huge steps right at the beginning and hope for success. If we do that, we waste taxpayers money and waste our students’ time. In the overall picture of a student’s 12 year career in school, we don’t have any time to waste!

This district is going to have elementary school students have many different teachers. I remember bonding with my elementary school teacher and learning the way to learn during this time. If these young children have lots of different teachers, won’t there be a lack of continuity at this young age? With many different teachers, there will be a possibility of many different tests and lots of homework. Do we want to overwhelm these students and make them hate school at this age?

Then they talk about merit pay. It sounds good on paper but it is so subjective it makes my skin crawl! They will begin to pay teachers by “rewarding them for performance and for the difficulty of their job.” How will they find a uniform way to do this? Who decides the rating of the teacher’s performance because no two people see something exactly the same way. Who determines the difficulty? I believe teaching my special ed students was just as difficult as the the teacher teaching AP students. Are they trying to see which teacher works harder? I worked just as hard or harder than some of my colleagues but they may have thought the same thing.

Another thing mentioned is standardized teaching. “To ensure they hit every tested skill before FCAT, district administrator posted sample lessons online that teachers can use verbatim or as a guide. The lessons come complete with a script a teacher can actually read from if she's not comfortable improvising.” What about differentiated learning? This totally does away with learning styles and special education. All that money that many districts spent on universal design for learning is all wasted even though research shows it worked.

What a scary time this will be for students and teachers in this district! I don’t think the people who are making these decision have ever taught anyone anything. I really hope these big steps and dreams are successful but I seriously doubt it!

Original image: 'Free Child Walking on White Round Spheres Balance Creative Commons' by: D. Sharon Pruitt


Her Artichoke Heart said...

I agree -- no one learns anything effectively by trying to do everything all at once! Baby steps are totally underrated.

Nick James said...

It's absurd to think that small steps toward progress should be discounted. Any mass change on a societal level is the culmination of small individual efforts which amount to small goals and steps. On the individual level, leg work is completely necessary to achieve anything of note. While I certainly don't know this board member, I do know that in the classroom if I don't celebrate the small successes I'm going to lose a lot of my students- generally those that are most at risk for being lost.

loonyhiker said...

@Her Artichoke Heart I agree, we tend to look down our noses at baby steps and they are so important.

loonyhiker said...

@Nick James And sometimes it is these small victories that give our students the strength to keep going.