Yesterday I was listening to the radio while sitting in the Meijer parking lot, awaiting second child’s prescription to be filled. (We are now both the proud owners of ear infections.) Although my children were not happy at having to be strapped in their car seats when they should have been tucked comfortably in bed for naps, I managed to hear the radio over their loud protests.
The show discussed “virtual” schools that can take the place of traditional schools. They interviewed a high school junior who had chosen to switch to a virtual school after attending public school. He professed that the traditional classroom had failed him because his teachers hadn’t devoted that one on one time that he needed to learn. In virtual school, he claimed, he has made friends, joined an online chess team, and can IM chat with his teachers and classmates, as well as sit in a live video stream classroom if he needs. He claimed he does not miss any part of school and again emphasized that he was not getting the one on one time that he needed in public school.
I took this information in in different ways. On one hand, it personally upset me because my husband and mom are both public high school math teachers in a state that is basically threatening every teacher’s job, salary and benefits. Our children spend more time with teachers than any other person, and have arguably the most important job on the planet, but there are those who think taking teachers’ salaries will somehow balance the ginormous state budget deficit. Ok, sure, that makes sense. Growing up with a teacher mom and now being married to a teacher, I can attest that of course, there are benefits to the job–snow days, summers off, and right now, we have really good insurance. But those come with a price. Teachers do not make great money starting off. This is a common misconception. I work part-time and make the same amount as him, if that tells you anything…Not to mention, teachers are expected to go back to school. My husband has to get at least 18 credits in a planned program in the next two years in order to keep his license. So, on top of getting his pay and benefits cut next year, we are still expected to pay for his Master’s degree…it’s not an option, it’s somehow a requirement. Then there is the actual job part of it: Teaching is hard work. They face the impossible task of teaching students who often are not interested in learning. How do you teach someone who doesn’t want to learn? How do you teach one lesson to 40 different kids who all learn in different ways? How do you remain a neutral personality so there are no personal feelings for or against you? How do you stay interesting and engaging to blank faces for 8 hours a day? How do you find the time to actually teach amidst all the state requirements for paperwork?
Teachers are blamed for a lot, and it’s getting ridiculous. With cuts in everything, teachers are facing upwards of 40+ students in a classroom, and then to hear this student complain he is not getting the one-on-one time he needs from his teacher is so frustrating. My husband goes in early and stays late almost every single day to give students that one-on-one time. And more than half of the time, students fail to show up for that scheduled time…so where is the blame to lie there? I just don’t understand how we can lament the failures of our education systems, our poor scores on everything standardized in the country, but simultaneously demand teachers to take on more with less. Have you ever tried teaching? I have, and it was one of the worst days of my life. In nursing school, we had to come with a lesson plan to that involved our students, challenged them, made them think…you know, the everyday stuff of teaching, and it was awful. I was so mentally drained by the end of the day I couldn’t even see straight. It’s exhausting to pore yourself into your students, and most of the time, not even know if your efforts made a dent. I have a lot of sympathy for teachers, obviously, and to me, it sounded like this student, and probably more so, his parents, were quick to blame teachers for his failures, when honestly, teachers can’t control a lot of the factors that go into that classroom. On the other hand, they did take steps to correct the problem, but sadly, if every student dropped out and went to virtual school, where does that leave us?
Which brought me to a second fear–are we heading towards virtual school only? Will we see a total dismantlement of the physical school grounds? Honestly, this doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch. I think people would say it’s important for younger kids to be in a more traditional setting to learn important social skills and have hands-on learning, but when you get older…who cares? Then I thought, well, why even bother with young kids? Those so-called social skills they learn as youngins may not even be necessary as they find jobs working behind computers, working from home, designing software, etc as adults. It’s a virtual adult word, so why not have a virtual school world?
I have personally taken online classes for my yet-to-be-completed Masters degree, and as a working and nursing mom, I loved the convenience. No unnecessary time away from my kids, no wasting life driving. But I still found it harder to learn. I happen to be someone who learns best by reading and writing, so I am an ideal candidate for online learning, but I just found it felt false to me…it’s just not as an invigorating discussion via a discussion board.
THEN I thought, well who cares? So much of education is fluff anyways, isn’t it? Let’s be honest. Half of the classes I have taken have been total fluff. Ethical leadership? Nursing theory? I admit that I found a lot of it interesting, but in terms of practical application…not so much. How much time do we waste on our kid’s lives with this stuff? Maybe virtual schooling can cut down on some of the crap…
I don’t know where the future is headed. I am scared for our family’s future, and I think a lot about how our kid’s schooling will go. Honestly, I was not a fan of school. We just had this discussion in my family the other day…none of us really liked school past the elementary years. I was done with it after about 7th grade. Getting up early, trying to make yourself look acceptable enough not to get made fun of, picking out an outfit every single day. (Actually, up until 10th grade, I wore a uniform, which was nice not having to think about, but awful because it was an honest-to-goodness wool kilt. Shudder.) Then sitting in a classroom, shuffling along to the next, taking in some information, spitting it back out, half of what you learn never making in to your cerebral cortex. And mixed in all that is the social mess of peer interactions, growing up, fitting in, finding your true self. It’s miserable. I couldn’t stand school because I felt like it was such a waste of time. I wasn’t hated or bullied, and I had lots of people I was friendly with, but I’ll admit, my weekends were not jam-packed with social activities, so maybe I was just a loser…
What do you people think about school, homeschooling, virtual schooling? Should we looking more at non-traditional options or do you think a “real” school…you know, one you leave and go to, is necessary?