It’s heartbreaking, but I’m leaving my teaching job

Teachers are trained to understand how children learn, how their young brains integrate new information, and how child-led leaning in an exploratory environment is the most beneficial form of education. And yet, because of our fear-driven society we have over-regulated childcare centers and schools to the point where children’s natural curiosity is so restricted that they lose their confidence and spontaneous creativity for fear of punishment and retribution. Instead of teaching young children how to explore & observe, we teach them fear and conformity to adult standards of behavior. Because of fear-based regulations teachers cannot take children for a walk around the block after a rain without parents signing a field-trip permission form. Children cannot dig in the mud for worms to build a compost bin in the classroom because then the children will be exposed to (gasp!) bacteria. Never mind that if the compost is tended correctly only good bacteria will come of it. You know, those ProBiotics found in overpriced yogurt. Regulation has replaced common sense; children are herded into childcare centers where the only guidelines given for staffing are a H.S. diploma and 18 years of age. What was once common sense, such as peeking in on a sleeping baby every now and then, has become a regulation: check infants’ sleeping position every 15 minutes to prevent SIDS. Common sense says wipe the mud and muck off your shoes before going inside; regulation says: blacktop & mulch only during outdoor recess if grassy areas are snowy/muddy. I believe over-zealous fear mongers are responsible for the death of common sense. And as a (baby steps) free range parent, I’m in the minority. Most of the other Tree Hugging Dirt Worshipers are not in Kansas. I have several parents and neighbors tell me I should not let my children walk home (2 blocks) by themselves, should not let them play in the creek adjacent to our backyard, and should not let them ride bikes and play in the street, even though our street gets hardly any traffic. Between the school rules and society rules, I sometimes feel like the only Moderate Parent. Of course, after the current abduction and murder of an 8 year old girl here, my fear is back up to maximum level.

My sister Jenny says: “Keep your Job separate from your Passion for Learning.”

My Aunt Pat says: “How can you change the culture?” (Her daughter Connie is a H.S. English teacher)

My brother Patrick says “What can you do to fix it?” (scary question, I’m only one in a sea of hundreds in opposition)

I don’t think it’s a problem the government can fix with the swipe of a pen, I agree with Patricia in that the problem is our culture. Parents do not value education because they had such horrible experiences with School. Its boring, tedious, and full of bullies. Bush’s NCLB is a failure, hurting more communities that it is helping. Obama’s Race to the Top is simply more of the same rhetoric, in language a little more appealing. However, the concept of publicly educating all children cannot succeed without a Socialist model of cooperative learning.

Now I know this may sound like blasphemy when living in Kansas. But trust, dear reader, between Topeka, Lawrence, and KCK there is a little blue dot in that BIG RED map.

There are several inclusive models for learning, but in Topeka we’ve shut down our fair share of failing schools, shifted those students to different neighborhoods (bus transport $ increase). I know there are public schools in our district that may have curriculum more appealing than our neighborhood school. But I want to see that curriculum in every school, not just one or two in a city of 18 elementary schools. Why are only the minuscule elements of learning universal?

I think the first step for the U.S. is to sign the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Adopted by the U.N. in 1959, the U.S. has yet to actually sign it. You can visit the Child Rights Campaign to urge our President and Congress to ratify the above mentioned Declaration. I also think we should pull our military out of failing wars in foreign nations, scale that budget WAY BACK, and redistribute monies to the states specifically for K-12 funding. BOOKS NOT BOMBS! Let the Military hold a bake sale, and let our children and families have the educational tools they need to be productive in our modern global community. For being a First World nation, the U.S. is sure backwoods redneck in its policies towards civil rights. Perhaps we could then focus on curriculum and standards of learning, shifting from an Industrialized (outdated) standard to locally focused, community based education.

“To the religious right [Rick Santorum] the scariest three words are ‘Here’s an Idea…'” -Bill Maher


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