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Naptimes, Playtime, and True Learning

What are we even doing anymore?

I think it’s time I stood up for what has been harboring in my heart for far too long.

There are some major problems in our country today, including but definitely not limited to violence, hunger, poverty, and poor education.

Some may read that line and think I’m speaking of living in a third world country. Those people would be wrong.

In fact, I’m speaking of the place where dreams are supposed to come true and opportunities are supposed to be boundless.

I’m speaking of a place where people come from all over the world to see their children have better lives and better chances than they ever did.

But they’re sadly mistaken when they cross our borders. Tears quickly fill their eyes as they send their babies off to school only to realize that the education system is broken and safety is only a discussed concern.

Let me backtrack for a second.

I am a 29-year-old college graduate with two degrees. With a bachelors and masters degree both in education, I have been engrossed in this system for many years.

Before I became an educator myself, I saw educators in my family give their lives to the system and to children. From grandparents to cousins, I have watched as children were molded forever by the hands of my family. And I could not (and will not) ever be prouder of them for their contributions and achievements.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the education system was broken. It’s no secret that my first semester of teaching high school English ravaged me, bringing me to my knees begging them to let me out!

Thankfully, my principal told me it wasn’t an option and forced me to open my eyes to the possibilities I had in front of me. She showed me that I was made for this – that my life as an educator was not even close to over. I had too many lives to impact.

She was right.

I continued as a high school English teacher for 7 more years, teaching 9th graders the beauty and sadness of To Kill a Mockingbird and the creepiness of Romeo and Juliet (and if you think it’s a love story, we should talk… I could show you so many ways that it is FAR from a love story…).

But something happened in the fall of 2016.

After learning I was pregnant with my second baby, something inside of me lost the fire. Helping kids succeed and creating long-lasting connections was something that still brought life to me. But the education system was failing them.

Test after test, meeting after meeting, I started to lose hope in education. There was no fun in the classroom because there was no TIME to have fun.

Sure, I could come up with engaging lessons and relevant ways to pull my kids in. I even made a bank system in my class called Sabillon Swag for behavior incentives. Those kids loved it (some tried to use the fake money in vending machines…. I mean, do I need to say anything else really).

Was I the “nicest” teacher? Nope.

Was I the “hardest” teacher? Nope.

Did my babies leave that classroom feeling valued, respected, taught, and loved? They sure did.

But I couldn’t shake feeling that something was missing.

I gave more tests in a 9 week period those last few years of teaching than I ever took as a student myself. I also realized that the use of computers in the classroom only hindered their success rather than building it up.

We were creating dependent, over-tested, over-tired, and uninterested students. They had no love for any subject, except their phones.

It translated over into discipline issues sometimes, but in high school that’s to be expected. I actually liked those challenges. I could call them into “my office” (outside of my classroom door) and get down on a heart-to-heart level with them. We moved mountains out there some days. Other times, we barely kicked a rock. But progress was progress.

I lived for that.

But you see, education wasn’t doing what I felt it should be doing. We had far too many standards to cover in a semester (truly in-depth standards that wouldn’t matter once they graduated high school), and trying to cover them all created a panic in every teacher’s heart.

Classrooms weren’t fun. There was no spark. I was not seeing the true potential of my kids come out! I could only do so much with the parameters I was given, and I felt helpless.

I tried project-based learning, technology-based learning, blended learning models, traditional style teaching, and everything in between. But nothing worked. My test scores were good at the end of the semester, but my kids weren’t getting what they deserved fulfillment wise (and yet they had no idea they were missing out on anything).

And let’s not forget the fact that kindergarten students have been suddenly forced to eliminate nap time, stop center play, and take more tests.

WHY do kindergartners need to take standardized tests? WHY do they need to know how to read before they step foot in a classroom? They’re 5 years old, and we’re treating them like we treat high school students.

Stop forcing our babies to grow up too quickly! They need more play. Their brains and bodies need to rest. They DO NOT need to take a state test to prove what they know!

Just STOP!

It doesn’t help, either, that schools aren’t as safe as they could be. We face school shootings almost every week in this country, and yet we haven’t done anything to boost our safety in the actual classrooms.

I’m not talking about adding more police officers to school buildings or creating only one entrance to the building. I’m also not talking about banning guns for the public.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Making guns illegal and expecting no one to get them is like having drugs be illegal and expecting no one to get them.

I’m talking about safety features INSIDE of the classroom – automatic door locks, bulletproof windows, emergency buttons, locked closets, etc… There ARE schools who have these features, so why not more?

Admittedly, these features are expensive. And some school districts can’t afford to outfit their entire district with these safety features alone.

But why aren’t we getting more help? Where is the federal government on this? Why are we letting our kids become sitting ducks in school buildings where they should feel safe? Why are teachers having to become victims for putting their lives in the face of danger on a regular basis?

Would I do it for my kids? Absolutely. After having two children myself, I would hope their teachers would do it for them.

I’m simply tired.

I’m tired of watching people in charge of education have no experience with it whatsoever. I’m tired of feeling helpless in the classroom. I’m tired of feeling the burning desire to get back to education but not to be in a classroom with my hands tied.

My heart is made for teaching – whatever form that may be. And I know that when I ended my lessons, I felt invigorated. Ask anyone who ever saw me teach.

But I can’t sit back anymore and watch school districts and federal policies ruin our school systems. From standards to safety, something has to be done.

As teachers, we can only control so much. People have been taking stands for education for decades with no real change.

Other countries in this world are seeing massive success in their schools. One of the most notable school systems that many educators marvel at is located in Norway. 

They’re known for their knowledge and skill set, ranking in the top 4 education systems in the world (behind New Zealand, Australia, and Korea). 

So why aren’t taking note? Why is the US lagging behind countries like Canada, Australia, Norway, and Korea? Where are we losing sight of the fact that these countries are producing top tiered citizens while having a completely different style of classroom? 

Why are not following suit? Structure-wise, curriculum-wise, or ANYTHING wise for that matter? WHAT ARE WE DOING? 

There IS a better way, and it’s time we started employing those better practices here in the states. We’re known for being the top-quality in so many areas in many parts of the world. Why is education not one of them? 

That stops now.

That stops with me.

That stops with you.

We’re in this together. Are you ready for a change? 

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