A Checklist For Exceptional Education

One of my posts Why Parents of Gifted Children are Turning to Homeschooling, generated some very heated comments. One very passionate teacher had this to say:

I do love my job, but I am making plans to leave it. The problem is that I just cannot meet all of the demands I’m under without compromising individuals’ experiences, and my own failure to reach some of these kids is emotionally damaging me in ways I could have never anticipated before I took on this career. Today, I had a surprise walk-through evaluation in one of the most
hectic weeks of my career (5 brand-new students, one on an IEP, one with a 504, and one who speaks no English and whose language is so rare my translator app cannot accommodate her- I teach freshmen English). Despite this week’s thousands of challenges, I was conducting a wonderful lesson in which each student took part in enlightening their peers in an investigative research report. The kids were quiet, well-managed, respectful, and they had impressive projects. I was so proud!

The principal, in the four minutes he stayed, did not see several of the checklist requirements within those four minutes of student presentations, and I got a mediocre review. His biggest criticism? A student was wearing a hat when he walked in. I have 150 students throughout my class in a day. I have noticed when they are depressed, high on drugs, hurting themselves, or in violent moods. But I did not take care of that hat. I get a mediocre review.

We aren't just failing our students, we are failing our best teachers too.

We aren’t just failing our students, we are failing our best teachers too.

We aren’t just failing our students, we are failing our best teachers too.

I think her story strikes at the heart of what we are struggling with in education right now. We feel the need to measure everything with checklists and data. The problem is, the things (I think) we want from education aren’t so easily measured.

We want innovators, leaders, creators, critical thinkers, and hard workers. We want people who are going to change the world, who are going to lead in science and technology and arts and humanities, who are going to be able to tackle the big problems currently facing our planet. We want students to be confident and bold, compassionate and caring.

Faced with a hectic week and several unexpected curve balls, the teacher focused on what was important and led her class through a lesson. A lesson that resulted in impressive projects. In one period, she was able to give those students an example of innovation, leadership, and hard work. She modeled how to be confident when faced with challenges, and when she was proud of what they accomplished, the students experienced genuine compassion and caring.

She led by example, she was a role model.

But what she did wasn’t on the checklist, so she got a mediocre review. I think anyone can tell just by the paragraph she wrote above, she is not a mediocre teacher – she is what our school system needs more of.

Great Teachers Inspire

Great Teachers Inspire

 

We need to inspire curiosity, we need to empower students to take risks and make mistakes instead of penalizing them for doing either. We need to give children time to pursue their own interests, we need to teach them how to set goals and how to achieve them, we need to teach them how to value each other and how to lead effectively, we need to teach them how to co-operate, how to embrace or at least entertain radical new ideas, how to think critically and how to believe in themselves. We need to let them soak up great literature, we need to give them space to enjoy and understand art, we need to show them history – show them how it helped, hurt or changed the world, show them how we learned from it and how we can use it to create a better world going forward.

And just how can we do that?

We have to trust each other more. We have to hire great leaders who can inspire our teachers to empower our children. We have to believe in them and recognize that this doesn’t always translate into high standardized test scores. We have to spend money on art and PE and music and nutritious food, not on big corporate testing contracts or empty initiatives with fluffy names. We have to care more about students than we care about test scores and we have to value teachers who are creative and compassionate and who try to make learning about more than getting test results.

 When we are able to let go of standardization, when we are able to see children as people and not as statistics, and when we value teachers for their ability to nurture learning and inspire questions rather than memorize answers, then we will have education that can accommodate all different learning styles, speeds and abilities. Then we will have a system that will accommodate the diversity in our children instead of trying to stamp it out.

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About Jennifer Charboneau

Jennifer Charboneau was born and raised in British Columbia Canada and moved to Arizona with her husband and three children in 2009. Alongside her husband Kevin she has started and run several businesses and continues to pursue her entrepreneurial goals while homeschooling their children.

Posted on May 13, 2014, in Education, Gifted children, Gifted education, Homeschool, Parenting, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Dear Jennifer, this post was my story as well. Thank you for sharing it so well. I taught for 23 years and specialized in working with identified gifted children in a pull-put program. As an experienced teacher, mother of two gifted children, and a professionally trained life coach, I worked hard to dig deep into the hearts and minds of my students to help them shine a light on their own strengths, while also turning “mistakes” into learning opportunities. Creativity, curiosity, and a love of learning were the goals within the required standards. Every teacher I worked with put in nearly 60 hour work weeks, tutored students at lunch, after school, and woke up in the middle of the night with a concern about a struggling student.
    The year I gave up on teaching, my principal came into my classroom unannounced 23 times with a 3-part NCR evaluation checklist covering all of the overt objectives, while the deeper, more meaningful work of instilling a love of learning, self-acceptance, and a myriad of other social-emotional skills were not on that checklist. Specializing in gifted education made it especially difficult to simply cover the “basics” on a measured data collection.
    I felt drawn and quartered! Everyday, I felt my hands were so tied that I could not possibly do right by my students. I had to step away from the career I loved. Now, I intend to make a difference for gifted children and their parents on my terms. I applaud any parent who chooses to homeschool their children.

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