Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bureaucrazy... warning - rant ahead

Disclaimer: This is not a knock-down of the public schools, teachers, etc.

I'm a teacher.

Some of my best friends are teachers.

Some of my favorite students are becoming teachers (see Geetha's marvelous blog on this subject).

I have nothing but the highest respect for dedicated teachers who do their job well. And there are a lot of them out there.

But here's where I get po'd:

I've been involved with, and aware of, rules and regs for the home schooling community in various states and countries since the 2000/2001 school year. In many settings, the scrutiny of parents teaching their children is extraordinary. Lesson plans submitted for each week of the school year. Requirements for a syllabus that practically contains when the child will sneeze, etc. There are very few school districts that apply this level of scrutiny to their own teachers.

And here is the other thing: the majority of home schoolers are beating the pants off of public schooled students in ACTs, SATs, state-mandated tests, etc. Home schooled students tend to be more prepared for college, having needed to work independently throughout their high school years. They are socially more mature, having spent their years with a variety of age groups, taking on internships, etc., at earlier ages.

There are certainly exceptions. The media loves to latch on to the "crazy" home schooling parents who are abusive. The children who never see other children, etc. But from my experiences, these folks are in the same kind of minority as they would be in the public schools. Maybe they are even less frequent.

Because those who choose to home school usually do it because they want more for their children. They want their children more challenged, or given a stronger moral base, or to have the ability to go at their own learning pace or to develop a passionate interest. These parents give up one income, usually, and make enormous sacrifices in order to home school. And there are a heck of a lot of certified teachers home schooling their own children. And there are now plenty of co-ops and social organizations of home schoolers so that it's very rare that these kids go without seeing PLENTY of other kids.

So, when I, who have 25+ years of teaching experience, have spent the past three days with my rear end GLUED to my chair preparing paper work so that a teacher with 15 years' LESS experience than I have can approve courses I'm teaching for home schooled students in the fall, it gets OLD.

Now the program I'm prepping for is very home school friendly. Folks are trying hard. The teachers in the school district who have taken this program on are working their little behinds off. I respect them TREMENDOUSLY. I also know it's the old issue - accountability. That word, in and of itself, may be the killer of all innovation in education in this country.

In addition to the thousands of children who have been left behind by the "No Child Left Behind" act, what about all the creative, innovative teachers who have been left behind, as well? Can we really afford to lose the best of what they have to offer?


On much more cheerful notes...

That creative twosome, Jenn, of Something to Say About Life in the Netherlands and Allison, of Soccer Mom in Denial have joined forces to create an absolutely stunning photography blog Looking Into . By all means go check it out - the photos are thought-provoking and simply beeeeyooootiful!!! Congrats Jenn and Allison!!!

And....

Don't forget to enter the fabulous The Long and The Short of It Grand Opening Contest

15 comments:

anno said...

Amen!

I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about licensing/certification requirements as well...

Leslie said...

I've written and re-written a comment here about five times. I have thoughts on the subject, but can't seem to put them in words that make sense. Bah! Mommy brain!

I think you have an interesting perspective. I'm going to have to send a link to your post to my friend Karly who is waivering a little about homeschooling right now. I think she'd appreciate this.

Greg said...

Do you suppose that home-schooled kids in general learn a more dialectical means of thinking?(rather than the "end product" means of public education.)

jennifer said...

Oh Jen, there's nothing so sad as the system when it doesn't work. Or as infuriating. I know all about that stuff well from 15 years living in Italy, the world capital of needless bureaucracy. It's time for a hefty grain of salt!

Jen said...

Ooo, Anno, the licensing certification thing would take several more posts...

Leslie - I have continual Mommy brain! If you think of what you were trying to say or if you just want to e-mail about it, let me know.

Greg - I think it totally depends on the kids and their family. But I do think that socratic and hands-on learning is probably employed more frequently.

Jennifer, I've always loved Italy, but it's exactly what you describe that has kept me from packing my bags and moving... I just don't have the patience. My Soviet friends spent some time trying to match me up with a Russian husband while I was there, lol, but they finally acknowledged that I'd blow a gasket somewhere with the wrong official and end up in jail. Sheesh ;-) In any case, now that I'm in my 40s I'm better behaved, but any stupidity that involves kids, particularly, really sticks in my craw...

Marianne Arkins said...

Amen, sister! I am utterly irritated and annoyed by ignorant people worried that my daughter is somehow missing out on something by being homeschooled.

I won't rant here, but I will say she is an intelligent, mature, well-spoken 8 y.o. who is far ahead of most kids her age, both socially and academically (with the exception that her education is sorely lacking in: bullying, drug use, and she still isn't entirely certain where babies come from).

Ok. Done for now...

Diesel said...

I'm afraid that this is what happens whenever a top-down approach is taken to solving a problem, from public education to socialized health care to business regulation. You end up stifling creativity and freedom at the bottom level, where the work actually gets done (or doesn't...).

Mikaela said...

I have a blog again! I'm going to try to stay faithful to it, too!
I love yours so I just wanted to write myself=)
Love you!

Fourier Analyst said...

Ah bureaucracy! Thy name is school administration! My sympathies darlin', my Mom was a schoolteacher too and for every innovation there were a dozen or more nay-sayers who were busy building road-blocks around their little empires. Hang in there and remember who you are doing all this for --the kiddos. They, in the end, are the ones who will benefit.

Rebecca said...

I've sometimes (very, very vaguely) thought homeschooling might be an effective way to protect your kids from all the awful things about the public school system - bullying, drugs, pressure to conform etc etc

But it must be ENORMOUSLY hard work....and I NEED time away from my kids in the interest of my sanity. But I take my hat off to those who do it...really!

cathouse teri said...

I taught my children at home for six years. It was a wonderful experience. My family was freaked out and afraid that my kids would be socially retarded. As it turns out, my kids are the most socially adept of all the grandchildren.

I think it's great the the public school system and the home school system have joined the same team. It's no good for one side to bad mouth the other.

Although I do have my gripes about the public school system, they are mainly focused on the fact that people use it as an excuse not to be involved in their childrens' lives. They rather send them out to be raised by the teachers. And you know, I'm sure very well, this is no small job!

Jen said...

Marianne and Teri - HSing can be a wonderful thing when it works well for the parent and the child(ren). I feel very, very happy to have been able to do it, but Becky, I agree - it has to be something that works for everyone.

And FA and Diesel - yup, I think the over-institutionalization of anything will just squash creativity!

Mikaela - I'm so glad you officially stopped by and I look forward to reading your blog!

Andy said...

I hear ya! I for one think that the government should not be involved in schooling in anyway shape or form. It is bad enough that people are forced to pay for a school system that they do not use.

Jen said...

Well, Andy, it's always a complicated question - it would be kind of hard to have schools without governments to put them in place, but it's when any bureaucracy goes hog wild that things just stop functioning the way they should. Thanks for stopping by!

Jenn in Holland said...

Here is an interesting side note for you then. When we first were planning the move here to Holland we were looking seriously at homeschooling the kids for the year (we thought) we were here. Upon our research we learned it was not possible. No homeschooling allowed.
Now, admittedly our research was surface and others may know more on this subject than I do, but I was shocked that it wasn't an option we could openly pursue, nor find support for here.
We did find a workable solution when we located a government subsidized international school where the tuition wasn't outrageously high. We could afford that during our self-financed year, and hey! that's where I met FA, so the not being allowed to homeschool thing worked out okay in the end.
But still.