Friday, May 26, 2006

School Rant

From a news report: 'Neil Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, stated that he endured pressure from a private school in Houston to medicate his son Pierce with Ritalin for ADHD incorrectly diagnosed by the school. "There is a systemic problem in this country, where schools are often forcing parents to turn to Ritalin," said Bush, 47, who spent years researching the issue. "It's obvious to me that we have a crisis in this country." Neil Bush also said, "The problem is, it isn't the kids that are broken. It's the system that is failing to engage children in the classroom," and "My heart goes out to any parents who are being led to believe their kids have a disorder or are disabled."'

And I get tired of people blaming the whole problem on the teachers failing to "engage" children in the classroom. There are many kids who spend more hours outside of school watching TV and playing video and computer games than they spend sitting in the classrooms. And then they come to school and expect to be entertained and "engaged" there. Kids who used to run around and play physically when they weren't in school don't nowadays. No wonder they have too much energy. And they watch so much TV/video/computer games that they have attention spans of gnats.

When I went to elementary, junior high, and high school, I never expected it to be a 7 hour game every day. Yes, school needs to be interesting, but I am getting tired of people expecting it to be entertaining. Perhaps it is the passivity of this viewpoint that irritates me. Children and their parents expect them to be engaged BY TEACHERS in their school work; they don't expect to engage THEMSELVES in the pursuit of learning.

And while I am complaining, I would like to ask why it is that kids nowadays think that they have to talk all of the time? Whenever I lament as a sub that I have had difficulty with a class that talked a bit too much, teacher after teacher will complain that the kids are talking all of the time in their regular classes, too. You get the kids quiet, so they can listen to instruction or directions on how to do something and the second you open your mouth to speak, they start talking again. This can and does go on for 20 minutes or more and the only thing that stops it is sending one or more kids to the school disciplinarian. That works for about 5 minutes and then you have to threaten them again. Or teachers will put names on the board and take time off of recess for excessive talking. The only two other things that stop the chatter are movies or TV and tests. Even tests work for only the part of the test where everyone is working. As soon as one kid finishes, the talking starts again.

I have tried thinking about causes for this behavior and the major ones I can think of are:

1) When kids watch TV or movies or actively play computer or video games, they are not talking. In fact, they seem to be passively receptive, even when they are actively pushing buttons for a video game. So when they finish this type of activity, they have a greater than normal need to connect with other people and they talk, talk, talk.

2) Kids are not taught to listen to instructions or conversation. They are so visually oriented (TV, video, and computers again) that their auditory processing is less capable. And they have learned very well in school that, if they do not pay attention to verbal instruction given to the whole class, once they are given the assignment, all they have to do is complain that they don't understand, and the teacher will give them individual help, often complete with several answers for which they have to do little or no work.

I guess I am feeling cantankerous today. Sorry.

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