Education and Learning: A Mutual Understanding or Mutually Exclusive?

Believe it or not, I came home from a presentation on common-core requirements for kindergarten with a positive outlook on my child’s education.

“Surely, you jest,” you say.

No. I don’t.

The woman who facilitated the workshop, an early childhood educator with a masters in education, reminded me of the education professors I had in college, who were so excited about the learning process. Every moment was the teachable moment; every question or observation the origin of a journey they were willing to follow to its completion. It wasn’t about quantifiable results, but the complex ways in which our brains learned to work.

And this was the same thinking this presenter offered us. While children are expected to be able to name and recognize twenty letters of the alphabet upon entering kindergarten, that does not mean we should be drilling them with flashcards if they do not. Letter sounds and shapes are all around us; we can identify them on signs as we take a drive we needed to anyway. A lesson in classifying objects is as close and natural as mixing two boxes of puzzle pieces together on the floor. See the different ways your child separates them and make note of it. Basic math skills can happen at the dining table. If there are four people, but only three napkins on the table, ask your child how many more you need.

While all of these examples are seemingly ‘no-brainers’, it’s easy to lose sight of them during the course of a busy day. If we as parents are on our game, though, these are things we do innately every day. Likewise, all the insanely scripted tasks and goals of common-core are things good teachers do innately. People in charge of children with a true love of learning embed meaningful experiences into every activity.

This was what got me excited as I left that workshop. That there are still people, in the face of such crushing paper chases, who still marvel at making connections, flipping on the light bulb of learning, making that ‘a-ha’ moment happen. That is why people become teachers. That is what makes learning absolutely magical and powerful.

Unfortunately, that is not the direction in which education is moving. The hopeful feeling I had was tempered by the reality of the high stakes environment my daughter will experience upon entering school. She may not feel the pressure in kindergarten, but her teachers will and it will eventually filter down to her as she moves up in grades

I get it. We need to ensure that the millions of children across our country have an equal chance at quality education. We therefore need standardized language to articulate what that quality education will look like across the board. To assess adherence to and progress toward, we need quantifiable goals as part of this standardized language. All great ideas – in theory.

Essentially, the pie-in-the-sky learning process I described from my education classes in college was theory, too.

The future of education in America depends upon which theory will win.

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7 Comments

  1. My husband teaches. Music. Band. The Band director. That’s what he does and he loves it giving 150% of himself to those kids and the band program. But….with the way things are going in the school systems today there may not be many more teachers like him around. To think that it is ok to hold him accountable for the test scores of “reading writing and arithmetic” is not a good thing. And its not ok to have his pay raises and bonuses rely on the teachers who should be held responsible for those areas. This is one way to get music out of the schools. Let’s hope that never happens and lets hope the system keeps producing the teachers that are there to teach those core subjects and care. I’m sorry. I was just ranting. There are a lot of great teachers out there!

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  February 20, 2014

      There ARE a lot of good teachers out there, Elle. Unfortunately, i agree with you that new mandates may force a lot of them out. Accountability in some form is good, to ensure the highest level of education for everyone, but it must encourage improvement not inspire fear of punitive measures.

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  2. That ‘light-bulb’ of learning…ah yes, it is good to think that there are teachers who really do want to and can flip that switch. Here in the UK all the tests and scores and assessments are killing this love of learning, which surely is key to a proper education.
    Jennifer, I have nominated you for The Lighthouse Award because you shine your light in so many ways and particularly in sharing your struggles in the past with postpartum depression. I hope you like what I shared about you on my post and that you accept this award because you deserve it: http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2014/02/18/shining-a-light-in-a-dark-world-the-lighthouse-award/
    Many congratulations 🙂

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  February 18, 2014

      Sherri, you are a beacon of light! How could I not like what you shared about me on your post!? Gosh! Good to know that no matter which side of the pond we’re on, the light shines the same. Thank you for this honor!

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      • Well, you know what us Brits are like, always saying sorry for everything, ha!! You are so welcome and deserving of this award Jennifer, I am honoured to have been able to share it with you. I admire you tremendously. Now you really have to make sure you get me that lobster in Maine…I’m counting on it 😉

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      • Jennifer Butler Basile

         /  February 20, 2014

        With extra butter 😉

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      • Oh yeah… 😉

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