I don't know if I'm going to get into Bethel this week. The crazy Alaskan weather has struck again. We have wind, sideways snow/sand, and frigid temperatures. I realized that I actually do need to get off the island rather badly. I'm a little, how you say, going batty. I need to talk to people! I need to let my hair down (figuratively that is, I let my regular hair down when I damn well please). I need the peaceful serenity that only Bethel can provide, with its bustling metropolis, epic landscape vistas, various high quality stores, and local flavor and nightlife...(not knocking Bethel here, sarcasm yes, but I just find it funny Bethel is the Big Town around here.)
Actually, I don't need Bethel, I need anything not my island, I love the place and all the little guys here but after 4 months of being partially to mostly ignored it is beginning to lose its luster as the gem that I once thought it was. I would take teaching in a hellhole with friends over a great school alone any day.
No need to read further, it is another rambling incoherent parade of my disgust for the perplexing conditions of education in America. I've re read it, its kind of a downer so here is your disclaimer now!
This is especially for all you Alaska teachers out there? I can't believe they are putting Phases to Science next year in LKSD. I say leave science out of this whole NCLB mess all together. I can't believe they have phases at all but science? C'MON! I can't really complain about the other phases because I am not trained in English or Math. What I am trained in is progressive, effective, art infused, inquiry based learning in biology. The most detrimental thing we can do to further alienate students from accessing any success in the sciences is to give the whole subject a dingleberry system to learning based on a succession of chopped up skills that will be tested for in an antiquated, anglo-saxon language that propagates more of the same bologna that we've been cramming down these poor kids throats for half a century now. I was just thinking the other day how lucky I was that I could teach biology in a real way until BAM!!!! Phase System pie right in your face baby, all sticky and creamy.
You really want to get what I'm talking about? Why don't you ask an art teacher how they would feel if LKSD put a phase system to art (Which is impossible because art will always be undervalued unfortunately)? See? Still the same double edged sword. Yeah it might force kids to do art in a stepwise fashion, but now you will have a whole world of people doing forced uninspired mass produced unoriginal art. Kind of like unoriginal science, writing, reading and math. You can force a person to learn things I guess, but you can't teach a person the best parts of something in a system like this. You can't teach the beauty of living things in a phase system, you can't teach a person the therapeutic effect of writing in a stepwise test, you can't teach a person to balance a checkbook, pay off their credit cards, and apply for a car loan in PHASE 18 of life, and you certainly can't inspire the next genius artist by sitting his/her butt down and giving them a PHASE ___ INDICATOR ___ test on expressing himself through painting.
"Well now he didn't really paint the true pain of his life to a Basic, Proficient or Advanced level there Bob, so I gave him a non proficient because thats what the test says."
What do you do though? If you don't give teachers a step by step instruction manual to their lives how will they ever do it? Everyone is so concerned with lesson plans, and standards, grade level requirements and the whole NCLB aftermath. It is just so sickening. We can't let teachers just teach, improvise, skrew up and learn themselves because there are some slackers out there who will ruin it for the rest of us. And we can't hold teachers to standards because no matter how we try to assess it on a widespread level we will eventually run a curriculum that is too broad ranging and sweeping culturally. What we need is some sort of guarantee or assurance that the teachers are hired are capable of teaching what they know in a dynamic, adapting, and sometimes daring way. Instead we have to pass tests, test just like the ones we'll give our kids but harder and filled with more BS. It just seems like we spend so much time trying to teach students useless crap. I mean we should have GLE's and state standards about positive teacher attitudes, relationship building, self esteem, community outreach, classroom environment assurance, and personal philosophical development. Education seems to be focusing on the wrong thing. We want our kids to succeed at these benchmarks, but when we enforce these benchmarks we destroy the essence of education. Not to mention we are all so out of touch already with the lives of students (I'm one hip 24 year old dude and I am already an old dork to them).
I mean what we are really doing is socializing them to the same horrific bull crap that we went through. We didn't learn mostly, education "happened" to most of us like a house fire or a flood in the basement. All we really learned how to do was continue on a tradition of mediocrity, broken dreams, stereotypes, depression, unoriginality and wastefulness. And you know what, if we keep doing it we will keep getting the same result, a messed up world. I mean doesn't anybody believe that its about time we all try something new for once? How much longer are we going to keep at this whole thing anyways? The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over but expecting different results.
I'm sure I'll get a bunch of comments (or maybe not now) saying don't give up or maybe even in disagreement, I don't know really. Maybe I'll get some angry comments, good! I want you to be pissed off, at least that means now we're thinking. I mean whether it is your classic American high school with 10% minority, or an alternative high school, or a school in the ghetto, or a school in latin LA or a small school in an Eskimo village it doesn't really matter, reading, writing and arithmetic are done in the traditional sense of the word.
The world is accelerating so fast right now. We aren't going to be able to sit these kids down in neat little rows and keep there attention ever again. They have evolved, we have evolved, how we think has evolved. Its like education is elderly and can't keep up with their grandkids. I know thats sad, but its kind of true. How many elderly people can pop on the internet fly around, do one hundred things at once and be done. Now I know there are people out there who can use the internet but have you ever sat down with a little kid and watched them on a computer? Its freaky how fast they pick things up. I'm not advocating the internet or trying to make elderly people feel bad about their computer skills (Keep it up you're doing great!) but the internet is here, its happening, there should be a whole class just called "internet."
I know I'm spiraling all over the place here and taking swings at subjects wildly blindly in the dark but it is how I feel. As much as I would like things to be perfect, they aren't. Not everybody was raised to respect and cherish history, science, art, music, their elders, creativity, ingenuity, kindness, passion, charity, hard work and fun.
So how do I end this, well here I'll try and package it up a little. Here's what I think. SOMETHING IS HAPPENING TO US ALL. Whether it is global warming, or war, or religion or disease, or whatever you want to call this thing that is happening, I can feel it. Its like I can't tune out the humming all around. We are picking up a serious vibration, we are tuning up to a new frequency. Its time, I know it. I'm not scared, I'm just preparing. I didn't know why I came to Alaska, but now I do, I'm in training. I'm here for a specific learning experience that will serve me when this big thing happens. We are all in training for something in one way or another. What are you being trained for? All I know is that I don't want to be left in the dust sipping a diet soda on my lawn chair when it all goes down. I want to part of this thing. I want to be part of the vibration. I don't want to be part of the downfall. I want to ride the wave on a bitchin' surfboard of awesome love not be smashed against the rocks with a Britney Spears album and a McDonald's cheeseburger in my hands.
If this turns you off of my blog I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be nasty, but desperate times call for desperate words. I'm sure I'll come up with something sunny and cheerful soon when I can get this frightening taste of eminent doom out of my mouth.