Has anyone else noticed the number of stories like these that have become news recently? It is no longer a secret that great teachers are leaving the profession due to the increase in non-teaching responsibilities that fill up their schedules so full that getting through the day is impossible. The state of public schools is deteriorating rapidly, and has been for some time. You might be lucky enough to get a great teacher now and again if you decide to ship your children off to public school, but great teachers are disappearing fast. Further, although public school seems like a great option for “free” education, it comes at a high cost to your child’s overall well-being.
The decision-makers regarding school and educational policies say and maybe even also think they are doing right by children. But more often than not, new programs that become implemented under the guise of improving education, are actually making teachers’ jobs impossible, and as a result, quickly turning great educators away, teachers who love their jobs even when they were difficult. This leaves public-schooled children with increasing numbers of inexperienced teachers at best, and at worst, disgruntled teachers who stick around but grudgingly get themselves through the day in order to continue to accept their monthly paychecks. Teachers don’t make a great salary, it’s true, but those who leave public school positions are making a tough decision and making a huge financial sacrifice if they decide to continue in the education profession. Most other non-public school positions come with lower salaries and often no benefits.
This in itself says a lot about the teaching profession and the state of public school education. It’s time to make great changes in the education world for the sake of our children.
World’s Best Teacher Does Not Believe In Tests And Quizzes
I was delighted to learn that the Global Teacher Prize was awarded to an independent school teacher who has a mission not only to improve education directly, but also by teaching other teachers her methods. She realizes that alternative approaches to the traditional public school model are necessary, including choice, freedom, and meaningful assessments. I’m happy to see that she reaches out to other teachers to spread this idea and to share her successes. This is something I aspire to do as well, starting with the opening of a small in-home school. I can’t certify anyone in Montessori, but I can definitely share the philosophy and spread the Montessori message. These ideas should not be kept secret! They need to be shared as widely as possible. This is how we can make a change in our world and create a more peaceful society.
I’m curious to know, however, if and how public school teachers could incorporate any of this teacher’s practices. In my public school teaching experience, it was a huge risk to break away from “covering” specific concepts. I was evaluated harshly when administrators witnessed “freedom” of learning in my classroom. In addition, I saw that since children didn’t have practice dealing with a “free” class period, the time was often wasted. The children didn’t know how to make the choice of how to use free time wisely. This is still the biggest hurdle, and the biggest sacrifice for parents to make for their children’s benefit. How can independent schools compete with “free” public education?
This essay about the value of grades is written by, and from the perspective of a Montessori educated child who is now in high school. She writes about her experience with earning grades and how it relates to her experience with learning. I am grateful for contributions like this from people who are living examples of how Montessori method has impacted their lives. I can only speak as a teacher of Montessori, and not as someone who has experienced it personally. I often feel that my arguments automatically have an air of “grass is greener on the other side” because I can only speak to what I didn’t like about my childhood education, and what I think can be better for the future of our children. Words like these give me confidence for the kind of education I am offering children for a more peaceful future, and assurance that children are certainly not “missing out” on these aspects of traditional school.
Free Range Kids Controversy
Growing up in the late 70’s/early 80’s in Iowa, my siblings and I were raised more or less as what you would call “free-range” kids today. We were allowed to go to area parks on our own at a young age. It wasn’t just me and my siblings, it was the norm in our neighborhood, and nearby neighborhoods at the time. I feel a little torn about the issue these days. The structure of the neighborhoods surrounding me now are a lot different from the one I grew up in. Our subdivision is placed near a very busy street with dangerous traffic. Deeper inside the subdivision it is much safer, and children would have to be taught to respect boundaries. But not all neighborhoods are the same. I think there is something lost when children can’t play unsupervised some of the time, but that all depends upon the relative safety of the surroundings. Parents who allow children to play unsupervised in questionable environments, or with expectations that other adults will simply take over supervision duties, are being neglectful. But, if you have created reasonable rules and boundaries to be certain of your child’s safety, you have developed a trusting relationship with your child(ren), and you have good relationships with neighbors who are happy to watch out, then there should be no fear. We have to make reasonable choices on both sides of the issue, no matter where we stand on it regarding our own children.
The kind of freedom described in this article illustrates the beauty of living life without arbitrary constraints. Adults today, particularly those who went through the traditional schooling regimen, may have a tendency to focus on what a child may be missing out on by not having “school”. But in today’s world there is no lack of resources for information, nor for human connections and interactions of all varieties. Why leave it up to chance the teachers your child will be “instructed” by? Yes, there are wonderful, inspiring teachers in public schools, and your child may or may not be lucky enough to have one, most likely for just a short period of time. Instead of having to obtain certain arbitrary credits, and spend time with arbitrarily assigned teachers who give out arbitrarily determined grades, now the whole world has opened up and can be accessible to your child! What could he be missing out on?
I may have subconsciously known this when I was a student in public school, but became very aware of it when I became an orchestra teacher in both public and private schools. If what is happening in the academic world is the same as what is happening in the instrumental music world (in these schools), I can completely empathize and understand. I can only imagine at this point how much worse things have gotten in just a few years since I have left the profession.
In my experience, my job was to earn high performance ratings at all costs, and not to actually teach music and offer musical experiences to all interested students. I was rudely criticized at all opportunities for doing exactly the opposite of this. While many other programs “hid” their lower-performing groups by not allowing them to perform in public, I invited all of my students to have the valuable experience of performing in public and working with a local clinician. This resulted in lower overall performance scores, and intense and unfair scrutiny from administrators and department chairpersons who had no direct experience with my teaching, my classroom routines, or the children enrolled in my classes. I had no regrets about this whatsoever, because I could see how the experiences benefited the students in my program. But the years of criticism did wear me down. I felt like I was constantly fighting a losing battle. All interests were on annual performance scores, and not on actual learning. All staff meetings, and all conversations among colleagues essentially centered around this and it got to a point where I could not stand it any more and had to leave the profession.
As a student in the orchestra program at the public schools I attended, I may indeed have benefited in ways I can’t comprehend today. I remember practicing for auditions and “chair challenges” and being really proud of “first chair” distinctions. I do believe that competitive opportunities are valuable, but they have their place in the child’s experiences and overall development in their younger years. It should not define a program or a school nearly to the extent that it does today. And they should definitely not be to the exclusion of real learning opportunities. Focus needs to be more on authentic learning experiences for young children rather than on outward appearances of success, which are usually artificial, and at the expense of alienating many hard-working and well-intentioned young minds.
View reports of research that shows academic learning is not as beneficial to children as strengthening social and emotional skills and building intelligence. There is a difference between strengthening intelligence skills and strengthening academic learning.
Even with a classroom of 6 children, (as opposed to homeschooling families which most will have fewer children), I know there are going to be plenty of opportunities for socialization. I have already discovered several meetup groups that bring homeschooling families together, and I have also started one of my own. I am looking forward to scheduling play dates and field trips with other local home-schooling families.
In this day and age it is ridiculous to think that home-schooled children are missing out on socializing. Not only is that not true, but think about what kinds of socializing opportunities the typical public schooled child experiences. In public schools, children are for the most part, segregated by age, so most socializing happens only among children the same age group. There is no depth of interactions that would happen in a mixed age group, where children learn to help each other and/or look up to each other. I remember when my middle school students barely knew others in the orchestra if they were in a different grade level.
Incidences of bullying are on the rise. Children are expected to put up with bullies day in and day out, and for many, causing stress and anxiety about attending school. Is this what the socialization argument is supposed to make homeschooling parents feel their children are somehow missing out?
Of course, not all children experience trauma in public school, and many children do develop strong friendships with their peers in school. But parents need not be swayed by any kind of argument suggesting that choosing to home-school your child deprives them of socialization opportunities.
I started listening to this podcast several years ago when I was a public school teacher and struggling with my emotions about whether I wanted to continue being a teacher and not able to put my finger on the root of my distaste for it. I mean, I was an instrumental music teacher, teaching kids to play violin, viola, cello or bass. I had an elective class, so I didn’t even have to teach “the masses”. I was teaching children who chose to be in my class. What is there to complain about? I loved teaching music!
I came to realize that what I hated about my job was but the administrative part of it, and ultimately, the philosophy and structure of it. Brett Veinotte’s podcast helped me come to this realization, and helped me come to terms with my struggle and get me to where I am now. If you haven’t listened to this podcast, I urge you to start from the very first one and follow his outline from the beginning. If you are already a follower of mine, you may already be convinced that avoiding public schooling is the way to go. But, if you encounter neighbors, friends or family that are entrenched in the public school mindset but may be open to seeking alternatives, I can truly recommend this podcast series. It’s easy to follow and understand. You have to be prepared for absolute bluntness, but in the end, it’s exactly what people need to hear. It’s real thoughts, real experience, and a real foundation for change in our current education tradition. Help spread the message!
Here is an article that addresses the some of the main reasons why dividing children by age in traditional schooling systems does not make sense. When I was a public school teacher there were many things that I did not question at first, and this was one. Even though I knew there was something wrong, tradition is strong in the area of education these days. But just because something has always (or seems to have always) been done a certain way, does not mean things have to continue that way. I had the fortune of being an orchestra teacher, where, although my individual classes were divided by age, the performing group was a combination of grade levels. Primarily 6th – 8th grade. On occasion though, I could invite a 5th grader from the elementary program, or even a 4th grader who was ready, to perform with the middle school orchestra. Proof that age was not a true indicator of ability. Not to say that younger is better or smarter, just in the area of music performance, there were many levels of ability spread out among several age groups. Many 8th graders would have been happier playing and learning the music I gave to my 4th graders, because of the age they started, or their interest level in learning the instrument – a variety of reasons. And many 4th graders were thrilled to be playing in an ensemble performing music of their ability level, which happened to be music that my 7th and 8th graders were playing. It’s simple. Learning does not happen according to an age chart. So, why would you design your classroom that way?