Schooling Magazine

The Ways We Say "Education Doesn't Matter."

By Mrsebiology @mrsebiology
I've been in education for eighteen years.  In those years, I've seen the many small ways we as educators say that a student's education doesn't matter without actually saying those words.  For example:
1. Tardy passes.  The picture below represents all of the tardy passes I have received all semester, along with passes to the nurse and passes to assistant principals for discipline.  That stack represents a lot of lost learning time, especially when you realize that these passes are written for a lot of the same students over and over again.  If learning was really valued, there would be preventative action taken rather then just letting students be late and lose valuable learning time. 2. Announcements during class time.  For the first four years of my teaching career, I worked in a district where it was in the contract that no announcements could be made during class time other than regularly scheduled announcements during a set period.  Consequently I started teaching not knowing the agony of having my class interrupted with announcements about homecoming, meetings, or sports cancellations, and then having student attention diverted to those topics rather than what they are supposed to learn.  I always hear about cell phones being a distraction to students, but random announcements that could have waited until another time (or be made in another way) during a class can be just as much of a distraction from the real reason students are in the building. 
3. Letting students talk among themselves for the last 5 minutes of class.  I am known as the strict teacher because I believe in bell-to-bell instruction.  I only have 50 minutes a day to cause understanding in my students, and I want to use all of that time.  Some students and some teachers find this unreasonable of me.
4. Pulling students out of class for things that are non-learning related.  This school year alone I had students pulled out of class to talk about sports participation opportunities and to do something for an extra-curricular activity that was supposed to be done after school.  I even had a student pulled out of my class during a test because another teacher simply demanded it.  Now, I'm not against sports or extra-curricular activities; I feel they are a valuable part of a student's school experience.  It's when they start to take priority over learning that I have a problem.
I know there are other examples out there of small actions that say learning doesn't matter, but these are the four with which I am most familiar.  Now, imagine if we stopped doing these four things - how much lost learning time would we gain back?  I know these examples of little ways we disrupt learning time, but little things, when added together-can add up to huge changes--just like mountains can be formed after years of plates colliding. And let's face it - everything I've mentioned above are things that are easily changed.  We just have to be cognizant of them and be willing to change them in the name of student learning.
Little changes can lead to big changes.  If we change the small things, what big things can we do for kids?  Let's do things that say we think a student's learning is important rather than sending the accidental message that we don't really care.  

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