Monday, October 29, 2018

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Day Twenty-Nine

When I first moved to Nova Scotia eleven years ago, I worked at a substitute teacher at the high school level. After four years, I started working at The Oxford Journal community newspaper then began working as a lay worship leader for the United Church. But after a seven year hiatus from subbing, I'm back, this time at the elementary level.
What an eye-opener.

High schoolers are so autonomous that as a sub, you don't really get to know how any particular student is doing. But at the elementary level, where teachers and students feel more integrated, more familial, where there are Educational Assistants in every room to work only with a particular student with a special need, it's so much more obvious how each student is doing.
A lot can change in seven years as well, and I can't say our education system is working any better than it was seven or eleven years ago. Too much government interference, too much trying to reinvent the wheel AND rediscover fire.
But being in elementary schools... honestly, I don't know how teachers do it. You can tell they WANT to be teachers, that they are CALLED to be teachers, that they will persist regardless of the stupidity of bureaucrats who think, by sitting at a desk in an office, they know more about educating children, particularly CHILDREN AT RISK and CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS, than the teachers who are actually IN THE CLASSROOM.

Yes, I'm yelling.
I've subbed six days this month and already, there are two students in one grade -- just ONE grade -- with whom I'm obsessed. I'd like to go into the school, scoop the two of them up and tell the principal, "Give them to me, and I'll have them up to speed for reading and writing and math. Please."
Because they are at the age when they fall behind quickly, but worse, the age when they KNOW they are falling behind.
The problem is, no one on the front lines of teaching (principals, vice-principals and teachers) can make that kind of hiring decision. They can't say, "That would be great."
Instead, the government will say, "You can having a learning centre," and then twenty at-risk students end up there, the same size as the average class, and the teacher who wants to make a difference in their learning ends up losing all of them because there is still no way to work one-on-one.
Reading, writing and math -- those are the most important skills we need. At the least, every student should graduate from high school possessing those skills. They should know how to read, how to write (and by write I mean spell and use grammar so their texts and emails MAKE SENSE) and how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

How did we end up with an education system that can't even provide those basics to every, and I mean EVERY, student? You want to cut down on behavioural issues in the classroom? Make class sizes smaller and make sure every kid is keeping up.
Teachers have enough to do with the average class of twenty students. So give me those two students. Give them to me. Just give them to me...

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