Monday, October 1, 2012

Our Money's Worth... of aggravation!

I'm feeling like Goldilocks these days with her whining... this bed is too soft or that chair is too hard or this porridge is too hot.  It seems to be feast or famine in regards to English language arts (ELA) instruction for my younger daughter.  Hit or miss, haphazard last year while this year it often seems more appropriate for 8th graders instead of 6th graders in terms of pacing and difficulty.  What's that cliche saying about being careful what you wish for...

Last year in 5th grade, the younger daughter had a more or less glorified substitute all year.  The man they originally hired as the new teacher decided he could not move to England at the last minute and that left the school scrambling for a warm body certified teacher.  As often happens in scenarios like this, a current teacher at the school had a sister who was working on her master's degree in education and was willing to fly over here at a moment's notice to take over the position.

The thing is that this last minute replacement teacher, kinda like the recent NFL replacement refs back in the US, didn't really have the experience to step in and run a 5th grade classroom.  It's great that she was earning her MEd.  The sticking point is that she was specialising in special education, autism in particular... what she had been teaching her entire career via resource classes.  She was a sweet gal and muddled through as well as could be expected.  But, honestly, it all felt rather unfocused, unimaginative and certainly not the sort of education your child should be getting to the tune of $29,000 per year (bussing was another $4,500).  I feel like my husband's company that pays the tuition bill for our girls got swindled and we didn't get the very best education possible based on the annual amount they have to pony up on our behalf.

This year the 6th grader has Mr. Enthusiastic for ELA.  Mr. E is loud, and the kids like that.  He's gung-ho, and the parents like that.  He has some obvious class favourites he gives nicknames to, and the kids not given this "special" designation don't think that's so cool.  He also has this pesky habit of making his assignments verrry challenging, dare I say above grade level and not always developmentally appropriate, particularly in light of the fact that he has students from all over the planet who have attended multiple schools... the nature of expat families.  And thanks to his uber difficult assignments, it appears his grades come out on some sort of pitiful bell curve from the 1950s.  

When there is only one student in a class of 16 that makes an A on the grammar test, you figure there's a problem.  Was the test too difficult?  Were the kids not given enough practice and review before an assessment was given?  Back in my early teaching days, I can recall some tests I designed that suffered from this same problem.  That was my error, not the kids.  I had to either curve the grades or do a bit of reteaching and give another assessment that was a more accurate reflection of the objectives.  

I hate teachers who are always trying to "zing" the kids.  Why is that necessary?  Why not just stick with what you're supposed to be teaching at that grade level rather than kicking it up a couple notches so that students don't experience mastery of the objectives.  It seems to me that this is exactly why teachers in the US should expect a certain amount of oversight.  No one likes to be observed and have folks watching over their shoulders, but it's truly in the best interests of the kids, teachers and administrators that someone stays on top of what is happening in the classrooms. I can only hope that next year the younger daughter's English and reading classes in 7th grade (back in Texas) will be "just right"!

No comments:

Post a Comment