Elephant, Elephant, What Do You See?

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This week I read many articles, but the one we were asked to comment directly on was, “9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us.”  One final list to top off the semester, seems very fitting.  Essentially, this article listed 9 truths that are hard to bear in our classroom, 9 problems that don’t seem to have any particular solution.  Of the 9, I will discuss three today that I feel I have been witness to even for the short time I have been a para, but also throughout my own schooling experience.

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1.We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school.

It is a terrifying reality, but still true.  Children won’t remember everything we teach them, not by a long shot.  I am really putting myself in a difficult situation by choosing to teach younger elementary, because all anyone retains from that is fleeting memories of the good times.  A class party, the music during nap time, baking Christmas cookie ornaments, watching a classmate get a dull pocketknife confiscated, getting picked for student of the week two weeks in a row.  It’s not the stuff we want them to remember at all.  One thing I really like about teaching the kindergarten age is that you know their learning of the important stuff will be retained.  If they did not remember how to add, they would not be able to build on it toward other math skills.  If they did not remember their letter sounds, they would never be able to sound out foreign words.  Many of the concepts taught in those young elementary grades are vital to understand and remember so that more knowledge can be built on top of it.  Still, overall, yes it is a problem that kids don’t remember most of what is taught.

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2. We know that we’re not assessing many of the things that really matter for future success.

If I were to be asked what is most important and held highest in school, I would easily be able to say math and written language.  These two things are emphasized in force throughout the education whether a student is 3 starting preschool or 23 finishing a degree, these are clearly the most important.  I understand that repetition is the only way to keep up some skills in this category, but we are highly underemphasizing other areas that are necessary for success in our age.  Unfortunately, I am not sure how to remedy this situation.  We aren’t assessing the important things because yes, it may be easier to assess the others, but I think it is also because we aren’t directly teaching those things like creativity or curiosity.  We can foster these, but no one can be taught to be creative or curious, so testing this in an individual would not produce results reflecting on the teacher’s ability.

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5.We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in.

“This system…has caused my generation to develop an unhealthy obsession over grades instead of learning, in my opinion. The harsh reality is that we really aren’t learning as much as we could be. We study because we have tests, and the day after the test we forget all of the information we studied.”  I cannot tell you all how much I agree with this quote.  Even now I am stressing out because I know that there is a chance I might get a B in one of my classes this semester.  Have I learned everything we have been taught?  I would think so.  I do all the work, I read all the material, and for some reason I simply cannot write my papers well enough.  The point is, we are losing sight of learning and focusing much too much on grading.  Unfortunately, teachers sometimes get lost with this too.  Just because a grade says a child is learning the material doesn’t actually mean they understand it or can apply it to their lives.  The same could be said for bad test takers who perform amazingly and comprehend the material to its full extent but just can’t get the test down.

There are so many problems with our educational system.  There is no way I would be able to limit it to 9 as this article does.  I would like to say we are doing our best, but are we?  I feel like some of these things could be improved, maybe not fixed all together, but we could be doing better if we were willing to change.

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5 thoughts on “Elephant, Elephant, What Do You See?

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  1. Avery, great post! I found this article to be very interesting as well! It is scary to think that most kiddos wont remember the stuff that they learn in school. I have to say I have been there too. You made so good points about Kindergartners, if they don’t learn how to count or their sounds, these are the building blocks to their futures. This is one that I wrestled and thought in great lengths with too this week of finding way to help kids remember what is taught. Great posts this semester! Jaime

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    1. Thank you for all of the comments this semester! I am worried kids wont remember what we teach them too, but then I remember that if it is that important, we wont be the only ones to teach it, it will be a continuous process. Hopefully this can ease our consciences.

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