Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beyond the Classroom

The following appeared on a small schools list serve I belong to. The author has an intresting take on putting what we do in the classroom into perspective.

It reads:

Classroom without boundaries offers alternatives in NCLB era.

Former Greenville High football coach Charles Brady's summary on the need for a public outcry about public education made for some interesting reading on Sunday. Great job, by the way, coach on addressing the fundamental flaws with No Child Left Behind and the new teaching to the test atmosphere that we appear to be under.

However, I think there was a fundamental flaw in the structure of the education system when someone decided many years ago to put 30 children of the same age in a classroom with a teacher and expect each one of the students to get all the knowledge that was due to them regardless of discipline problems, different learning styles, teacher work load and the various student backgrounds.Coach Brady is absolutely right. There has been a change in education delivery since NCLB. But, I will play devil's advocate by saying that thinking public schools and institution of learning in general are solely responsible for the education of our children is flawed as well.

Public schools are required by law to present narrow objectives in order that they are measured by a standard called a state test. So, why not expand upon a child's education if we know what we're up against with the limitations of No Child Left Behind?It is unfair to put the blame entirely on school districts when the critical thinkers and leaders don't emerge from our ranks.When I get a chance to go into classrooms around local school districts, I often draw a huge circle on the blackboard to represent all of the knowledge in the world.In the middle of the huge circle, I then draw a small dot, illustrating to children the portion that teachers and school districts are responsible for.

Next, I ask a simple question: “Who is responsible for the rest of your education?”

This question is quite easy to answer. If we want to develop children's thinking and creativity, learning has to be encouraged at homes, in churches and in communities. Making your home a place rich with various literature and modeling the idea that reading is important by frequently doing it, registers with children in a powerful way.Simple word association games and cross-word puzzles wake up dormant areas of the brain.When mothers and fathers place their reluctant, timid children in front of a church congregation to say a simple Easter speech or make church announcements, public speaking, articulation and presentation skills are sharpened.
When a tutor or mentor takes an hour or two to really reinforce a skill or introduce a child to helpful information not necessarily learned under the auspices of a state benchmark, higher level thinking skills are developed.

We have to make our children fall in love with knowledge by encouraging learning outside the classroom. When children broaden their thinking, the teacher's job invariably becomes easier, they are more tolerant of others and they are more likely to pursue learning throughout their lives.The classroom has its purpose. That is to give students enough knowledge to satisfy objectives and quantify achievement with grades and assessments.

With the current atmosphere in education, sometimes the best qualified, most dedicated and well-intentioned teachers simply don't have enough time to give every student what they really deserve.But, the classroom will always be a much-needed, vital part of a child's education.To think that school districts are the end all of education and the sole holder of that responsibility is narrow-minded and a formula for perpetuating the blame game.

As a parent, it's my responsibility to work with teachers and administrators to ensure that my children get all they can from the traditional school setting. I also take the very personal responsibility of letting the world be their classroom as well.

Some legislation will come along one day and render NCLB obsolete. But, no legislation can supersede the desire to use all of life's moments as opportunities for education.

Patrick L. Ervin is a reporter for the Delta Democrat Times

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