The individual student has become lost in our world of elementary education. We no longer see the whole child nor do we see the complete picture of a child in our classrooms. This is scary because it is through relationship and through knowing the whole child that we build empathy and understanding for others in our students. We are now focused on groups of students rather than on seeing who a child is and developing the strengths that a child has.
Group work – teamwork
There is a big emphasis in education on developing partner work, group work and teamwork. Collaboration is seen as being a priority in the business world. There is no doubt that collaboration is important. We should help our students develop collaboration skills. But we must also develop the individual. When one is on a sports team or part of an orchestra, he/she needs to be able to work as a team. At the same time, he/she needs to build his/her individual skills in order to benefit the team. Developing the individual is just as important as developing the team. The best coaches know how to develop individuals and use their strengths. They also know how to develop a team by using those individual strengths and developing a climate and culture that brings out the best in everyone.
Testing Era & subgroups
In this era of standardized testing, we are always looking at subgroups. Yes, we SHOULD look at subgroups. But what happens is we lose sight of the individuals in those subgroups. We focus instead on how many kids it will take for us to improve our grade in this subgroup. So we work from a subgroup mentality instead of looking at the data for each student and finding ways to improve each and every child. It is so disheartening for me to hear – well we are going to focus on the bubble kids so we can improve our school status or we only need 2 more kids from this subgroup to pass - so let’s figure out which two students are most likely to improve the most and work with those kids.
Some schools have plenty of intervention support. But they don’t use the intervention support wisely. Sometimes we forget that quantity is not as important as quality. IT IS THE QUALITY OF THE INTERVENTION THAT MATTERS. For example, a school has 2nd grade classrooms with 28 to 30 students in each class. They have at least 8 interventionists/ESL teachers in the school. Their choice is to provide push in and pull out services to the classrooms. Their decision has kids meeting with many different teachers inside or outside the classroom. Would there have been better options to consider? First, the school could have taken one interventionist and made a new 2nd grade classroom (that is an intervention). Class size does make a difference if a teacher wants to meet the needs of individual students and wants to develop the whole child. Second, the school could have taken one interventionist and one ESL teacher to work with each grade level so kids aren’t working among so many people. Effective communication is very difficult when children are seeing 3 or 4 different teachers. Is communication at its best when all of these people are involved with various children in a classroom? The teacher does not have time to meet with all of these people. The worst consequence of such an approach is that no one really knows the whole child. Education becomes fragmented, impersonal, has no continuity, has no flow, teachable moments are lost…
How we use technology is important. Lots of discussion has begun on how we should really be using technology in the classroom. It is easy to put a child on a device; kids love technology. We must know the purpose for putting kids on devices and how that is impacting growth and achievement.
Loss of teacher voice
The classroom teacher now has little voice in what they teach, how they teach, the schedule… The saddest point is this has also led to the teacher having little voice to support their students. The teacher is not trusted to be a professional and is not trusted to know children and their needs..
Focus on math & reading & scripts
Math and reading are extremely important. Few would argue this. We do need to make sure our students can read and do math. But to take away science and social studies and the arts to increase test scores is not in the best interest of our children and our society. Having teachers teach the same lesson in the same way for consistency’s sake takes the passion out of the teaching profession. Of course there needs to be some consistency in schools, but we need to be careful of “programming” teachers and lessons.
The newest “fad” is the best approach.
Be careful of throwing out things that work to make room for the newest education idea. Be careful of using programs just because they are new and others are jumping on the bandwagon. Make sure teachers have a voice in selecting curriculum and programs. Make sure teacher voice continues as programs are implemented and that questioning is encouraged.
The main concern is that a focus on the student is being lost. We focus instead on test scores, programs & initiatives, consistency of instruction, the number of worksheets… instead of the needs of our student population. Until we once again look at students and their individual needs and differences – we will continue to group children together and depersonalize education. We forget to support the unique contributions that individuals can make to our world. There are times when it only takes one to make a difference.
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