14 April 2011

One Size Doesn't Fit All

There has been a disturbing trend in our view of education over the past few years, one that was propelled into dominance by a particular group of people, and that’s the trend of high-stakes standardized testing.  It seems that people who really have no knowledge at all of what education is all about or how people learn want to see quantifiable results of our educational system–they seem to see education as a “product” that can be measured, like a pound of sugar or ten feet of pipe.  But the simple fact is that education is not a product, but a process, and subjecting young people to standardized testing puts them in a very unfair position that’s often difficult for them to get through.

The chances are that you’ve been there yourself.  Most of us have taken standardized tests at one time or another in our lives.  The problem with these tests is that they don’t really measure knowledge or ability–rather, they test memorization skills and our test-taking abilities.  Anyone who suffers from test anxiety or whose memory isn’t as strong as another person’s is at a huge disadvantage when it comes to these tests.  My hope is that one day the tests go the way of the dinosaur, disappearing from the planet.

That’s my hope.  But my point is different.  We all are judged all through our lives on criteria that are established by other people, and much of who we are is a result of trying to meet those criteria.  Very rarely are we judged on what truly comes from inside of us–what are truly unique creations of the beings that we are.  Very often we are judged on what other people think we should be, as students, workers, spouses, parents, or any of the other roles that we play in our lives.

And the tragedy is that we allow ourselves to be judged by these outside standards, and we accept such judgments as the truth.

I do not run my classrooms in the same ways that other teachers do.  Some of those other teachers would definitely say that my classes don’t have enough “discipline” in them, and they’d do their best to change what I do if they were to be in one of my classes.  But my major concern in my classes is to treat my students with respect and dignity–and I honestly don’t feel that I can do that if I’m trying to control their behavior every moment of every class.  My students do learn, but I try to see their learning in things other than tests and papers.

The most important thing to me, though, is that I’ve found the confidence and knowledge to reject certain paradigms about classroom management and to trust my own instincts about how I should run my classes and treat my students.  And it truly doesn’t bother me if anyone criticizes my approach–it’s a result of a combination of who I am, what I’ve learned in my degree work, and what my experience tells me is effective and ineffective.

Who are you?  What works for you in what you do?  Are you willing to stand up for what you do and how you do it?  Are you willing to accept yourself for exactly who you are–and celebrate your uniqueness, being proud of who you are and what you do?  When you reach the point of being accepting of yourself and your gifts, you’ll definitely find life to be a much more exciting and joyful place for you, as you create beautiful expressions of who you are in all that you do.

You know that I don't believe that anyone has ever taught anything
to anyone.  I question the efficacy of teaching.  The only thing
that I know is that anyone who wants to learn will learn.  And maybe
a teacher is a facilitator, a person who puts things down and shows
people how exciting and wonderful it is and asks them to eat.
Carl Rogers 

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