Friday, January 16, 2015

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 16 Thoughts on Education

The topic for Day 16 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge I found is "Thoughts on Education". Being a teacher myself, I have a few different views of this topic and I'm going to approach it in a couple of different ways. 

Let me start off with early childhood (pre-kindergarten) since that is where I am currently a teacher. It is so amazing what children learn from the time they are born to when they go to Kindergarten. Between my experience at church watching the nursery children (Infant-Two) and now my experience at work with children from Infants to Five (Primarily the Two-Three year olds) my eyes have truly been opened to how much impact early education has on a child. I know many two year old children that know all of their colors, some numbers, and some letters. Some of them even know the colors and numbers in Spanish. We have two year old children that know every letter A-Z and three year old children that can already count to 20. This is huge given that the goal for the end of Kindergarten (at least in my state of VA) is for students to know all of their letters and letter sounds and to be able to count to 100 by ones, fives, and tens. Think of it this way: If the student already knows how to count to 20 at age 3, give him two more years and he will count to 100 no problem by age 5. Then, in Kindergarten he can focus on learning how to count by 5s and 10s already knowing how to count by ones. 

There is a dramatic difference in children that have been educated either at home or at school prior to Kindergarten versus those who have not. During my schooling to be a teacher, I had a practicum experience in a Kindergarten class in September. There was a noticeable difference in the kids that had a knowledge base and the ones that did not. The best way for children to learn during these years leading to Kindergarten is through play as well as observation and definitely listening to books. Games and reading are the best way for kids to learn. They have to learn without necessarily knowing they are being taught. Get out a game of Candyland and use it to teach colors. Buy a counting book and read it to your child. 

Now jump to K-12 years. As a former fourth grade teacher, it is my belief that currently (at least in the public school system) there is too much of a focus on testing. I don't understand why we cannot go back to even the days when I was in school in the 90s and early 2000s when there was not so much focus on testing. We actually learned for the fun of it. Yes we had formal tests, but the scores did not matter as much and we were not forced into a formal test literally every week. School is no longer fun for students because they are forced into so much testing. It's stressful on the teachers, parents, and even more so the students. I know part of it is the reality, so we have to get used to it, but bottom line some major reform is needed in our education system. As a teacher, there is so much focus on these standardized tests that you cannot plan lessons just for the fun of it. I remember the days of myself being a student and learning was always fun for me, but I also remember that we did not have nearly as much testing. Nowadays, it is very difficult as the teacher to teach without feeling like you are teaching to the test and it is difficult for the children to learn because you are forced to push through content so fast that the students barely have time to take it in before they are taking a test on it. I'm not saying there shouldn't be standards because there should be some sort of guide for a teacher to use as far as the topics to teach and even goals for what the student should accomplish by the end of the school year, but it shouldn't all be based on the scores of a standardized test. 

I will admit that the impact this focus on testing has on our education system is not as much of an issue for K-2 students. However, even in K-2 classrooms teachers are forced to do testing for data collection purposes and sometimes that can be overwhelming as well. Especially in math and reading, teachers even for K-2 are forced to give test after test to see where the child is at. As soon as you think you are done getting data, you have to go and do it again. However, in my experience students in many K-2 classrooms still seem to enjoy school and the teachers usually have more freedoms at these grade levels depending on what school they are in and how that school operates.

Please note this is coming from my own teaching experiences and your own teaching experience or experience with your school system may be different. I hope that it is different.

Now to totally switch gears, everything above is for the most part talking about "Formal education" in the early years. Even if it is more informal than formal as in a parent reading to a child, I am still talking about what we usually think about when we think of education. Now I am going to take a turn to self-education. 

I am someone that has always enjoyed learning. I seek out learning and do a lot of things outside of the formal school setting. Even as a college student, much of my learning was on my own through reading, etc. As a network marketer, I have sought out education to do with my direct sales businesses and growing them. I follow many other network marketers, inspirational speakers, representatives in my main company, etc. I seek out training, good books to read, and enjoy learning. 

As a teacher, I have sought out additional books to read to make me a better teacher. Since getting my master's degree I have worked on getting my gifted education endorsement added to my degree and in the future I may go back to school to add another little something extra if I can afford to do so. I also seek out the advice of other teachers as well as enjoy in-service learning experiences where I can learn from others that have done it before me. 

It is my firm belief that it is important to self-educate yourself in addition to any formal education you may receive going to school before Kindergarten, your K-12 education, and any college or postgraduate experiences. 

Then of course there is the whole matter of we learn through life's experiences. This is true from the time we are born to the time we die. There are many many things that I have learned through my experiences these last 25 and a half years (almost 26). There are many more things that I will learn over the rest of my life as well. We never really stop learning and if we do, then we aren't doing something right. Learning is constant each and every day. 

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