Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New School Versus Old School

I can imagine that being a teacher is incredibly challenging, especially if you've taught the same subject, perhaps in the same school, for many years. I'm sure that you try to do things that spark not only the students' interest but also your own. But there's a trend happening in elementary education that's starting to bug me: teachers are creating bizarre projects that seem to have nothing to do with the subject that they're teaching. Or, if it does relate, then it's a group project.

For instance, my daughter's Spanish teacher is constantly assigning the kids art projects. Yes, art projects. Last week, she had to create a family tree and write a sentence and have a photo for 10 people on the tree. Does the teacher have any idea what a pain in the ass this is for ME?! I don't know about most people, but I don't have a lot of photos of my in-laws in my house. Not that I don't love them, but all of the photos are them in groups. I literally had to raid our wedding album and take the damn photos to Kinko's for color copies! Then there was the drawing of the tree. Do you know how hard it is for kids to draw trees? All of this so that my daughter could learn that "Abuela" means grandmother in Spanish.

Then there's the Math teacher who has the kids draw the dimensions of their bedroom as well as every single piece of furniture in it. I don't know about other people, but you're lucky if you can even find the floor in my daughter's bedroom. I understand what the teacher is doing - demonstrating practical applications for math skills. But why is it always something that requires some artistic ability?! Can't they just make a chart with all of these dimensions? NOOOOOOOOO....they have to draw the bedroom and all of the furniture in scale. C'mon! My kid isn't Frank Lloyd Wright and I don't expect her to be.

Then there's the Literature teacher who has the kids act out plays as well as create scenery, costumes and other peripheral items and then perform these plays in front of the whole school. What happened to reading an old, boring book and discussing the metaphors?! Don't get me wrong, I actually love this particular teacher, but group projects like this require driving and coordination and supplies and a nearly equal effort on the part of the parents as the children.

I know, I know, as one teacher aptly said: "Life is a group project." Well, I don't know about you, but when I was working, I rarely had to gather at my coworkers' houses after work to work on budgets or plan conventions.

I do understand that school takes work and effort, but shouldn't it be the kids' work? Unless you live in a commune complete with an Office Depot, you'll have to drive these kids to all of these houses, find and purchase poster board and myriad other supplies that are required and then find the energy to motivate your child to do the work.

I wouldn't mind all of this if the teachers truly graded the kids on the content and effort. If they understood that some kids just can't draw or make posters. Or perhaps their mom works full-time and doesn't have a lot of time to shuttle them all over town. They say that's what they do, but they don't. They always give the high grades to the projects that look good, time-consuming and expensive. The ones with sizzle. Style over substance.

How about a little old school? How 'bout memorizing tables and charts and learning things by rote and parsing sentences and conjugating verbs? Are we worried that they'll get bored? Too bad! We were bored...and we liked it! I'm pretty sure that when these kids get jobs as firefighters or architects or Engineers or CPAs, their boss isn't going to say to them one day: "Bobby, the Smiths are here to do their taxes. Have you drawn their family tree to identify all of their dependents?"


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