When the end of a school year rolls around most teachers take the time to reflect on the school year that is ending. What succeeded and what didn’t? What should I do differently next year? What should I prepare over the summer to get a jump start on the new school year? Do I need or want to take any refresher courses over the summer to make sure that I am better prepared for my next classes? Each of these thoughts represents what teachers can control about the job that they do but more and more what teachers can control is a small amount of what students learn.
As a retired teacher, I view the end of the school year with a different eye. Most teachers put forth a tremendous effort to educate the children in their care. Too often classroom teachers take responsibility for things that are not theirs to own. In honor of those teachers I have been reflecting on some learning experiences that have occurred outside the classroom during the last year or two.
In no particular order here are some events that are also forms of education.
1. Since the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School we see schools doing practice lockdowns and even practice assaults so that children are prepared in case of an armed attack. These practice lockdowns serve to make adults feel that they are doing something but they actually teach children that they are not safe at school.
2. Governors across the country have cut education budgets to avoid raising taxes. The children who are being educated without proper supplies or enough teachers are learning that their education is not important.
3. We have seen video of at least one governor showing total disrespect for teachers who ask valid questions about education. This teaches children that teachers do not need to be respected.
4. The free school lunch program has been attacked because children need to learn that nothing is free. Children whose parents have fallen behind in keeping money in their lunch accounts have had lunches removed from right under their noses. Whatever the decision makers wanted to teach, the children who have dealt with these situations have learned to be embarrassed if they are poor or if their parent forgets to put money in their lunch account.
These are a few examples of what our children learn from the world around them. To the teachers who try to give each of their students the best education possible, remember to take responsibility for what you actually can control and speak out about what outside forces inhibit your ability to succeed.