A retired school teacher's comments

I received this comment a few days ago concerning my Coherent Curriculum article, and I thought it's enlightening enough to post here as well (emphases mine):

I am a retired public school teacher. I taught first, third, and 1-5 self contained LD and resource classes 1-5. As I walked the halls of my school and heard the lessons being taught, I was so enraged! I knew students sitting in those classes that had learned those skills I still heard being taught and retaught. The work on display outside the classrooms showed very little improvement beyond what the same children had done in the earlier years.

We spin our wheels over and over teaching the same thing year after year and wonder why they can't do better on testing. They are bored to death. This is not just in math. It is in phonics, language skills, creative writing, basic logic skills. As a nation we teach a "swallow and spit back out" curriculum that is mandated by the state standards.

If a child is capable of going beyond, teachers are not allowed to take them higher. "It's not on the grade level standards". Likewise, if a student needs to review last year's standards, it is not allowed. We must stay on grade level standards.

Now do you see why Johnny can't read, spell, write, solve problems, of think. He never had to. He just memorized information for a test and never saw it again until the next year when he rememorized the same facts and passed with flying colors. Homeschool teachers, please don't teach the "memorize and spit back out" method. Make you children reason, explain why or why not, defend a position with research data. Don't put out robots. Public school has already handled that job very well.



Dana Leeds said…
Thanks for sharing this letter! It is a good reminder of what direction we needed to be headed in our own home-schools!
Brian Foley said…
Hallelujah, Sister! You hit the nail on the head. I have a friend who is a psychiatrist working at an inner-city school as a guidance counselor. He has a term for the phenomenon - CDD - Curriculum Dysfunction Disorder.

I hope you won't mind if I mention a post which deals with this on my blog at:

I also think that blogs like the Homeschool Math Blog give more inspiration and information than any year of public school ever could. I refer children and their parents to this blog often. They have told me that they appreciate the friendly style and clear lessons.

Keep up the great work, Maria!

Brian (a.k.a. Professor Homunculus at http://mathmojo.com/chronicles )
Risa said…
I agree completely! And sadly, this is what I too experienced in my days as a public school teacher.

I have found working with kids that when they appear to be struggling, the problem is as likely to be that we are going too slow (boredom!) as that we are going too fast (lack of understanding).
A self-paced curriculum, with credit by exam at any time, would shrink many school-related problems to insignificance. Self-paced curricula have one enormous disadvantage, they would greatly reduce the demand for teachers, and so reduce the dues-generated revenue stream of public sector unions. If "public education" is not an employment program for public-sector workers, a source of padded supply and construction contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination, why cannot any student take, at any time, an exit exam and apply the taxpayers' age 6 to 18 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified private-sector employer?
Dan Howitt said…
Thanks for sharing the letter.

Dan Howitt
Anonymous said…
Hi Everybody !
I am a math teacher from india. There is no harm in having selfpaced curriculum but I am of the view that there is a need to help bright students to know more skills. From my experience I can say a K-10 child has enormous energy and capacity to learn new things and not putting him or her into harder problems will make them incapable or slower and fearful too. I had been doing online tutoring for US kids and I can tell you that a grade9 US student can not compete with a grade6 indian student who has been enriched with extra efforts.

Cheers !

GN Singh
Punjab India
Fifteen Year Old Homeschooler said…
Unlike most of the other comments, I'm not a teacher but the student. I love to learn, but not when I'm learning the same thing over and over. As stated, it's a "swallow and spit back out" technique. From kindergarten to fifth grade, I was in a public school. I was ahead of my class, and always bored because I had already remembered what the teachers told me, and was never able to move on to something I needed to learn.

In fourth grade, my teacher "bent the rules" a bit, and began to give me tests she created herself, and teach me new things of her own decision, so I could step outside of boredom. She wanted to present an actual challenge to me, and she did so without anyone else knowing about it. Needless to say, it was the best learning experience I have ever had, which is one of the reasons I began to become homeschooled. I had my own way of thinking about problems, and I had my own pace to work at. I think every student does, but it's hard, if not impossible, to teach thirty students successfully at the same time without being able to go at their pace.
Heidi said…
This letter is a great reminder to me to help my child learn to reason and not rest on the spit it back out method. We think if we're not doing what the PS is doing, then we must be doing something wrong. We need to reform this thinking.

Thanks for posting this!

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