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As a teacher... Sorry this runs on - I needed to vent!

March 25 2012 at 7:41 PM
Ed Roberts  (Login EdRoberts)
HyperScale Forums
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Response to NEWS ITEM --High School Students Reading 5th Grade Books --

I can assure you that standards have fallen. For 25 years I've taught history and geography in Toronto to students of all levels of ability from gifted to 'locally developed' (a system in which a course is set up for an individual student). I've watched my expectations for students be legislated or 'suggested' to nothingness. Why?
In no order -
a) parental influence - I spent 16 years at a school at which many of the parents had escaped civil war (Sri Lanka) or political pressure (Hong Kong) and expected their kids to work hard to better themselves. Bless them! They came from cultures in which teachers are respected and a student did not act up. If I asked for 100% effort, I got 150%. I am now at school in which many of the students come from wealthy families. This has two effects: 1. 'Why should I work hard in school? I can go work for my dad.' 2. Parents make excuses for their kids' lack of effort or behaviour (to the point of getting legal help to get their kids out of trouble). Ask for 100% effort, get 60%.
Parents these days seem to have the expectation that their kid WILL go to university.
I've seen a lot of kids who want to learn a trade rather than get a degree. No amount of talking by me will convince them that their kid will be happier and make more money as a plumber or electrician than getting a useless degree in .... well, whatever. There is a disgusting prejudice against the trades.
By the way parents - try calling a university prof to complain about your kid's mark! If you are lucky they will merely hang up!

b) 'All kids have the same ability' Nonsense! I will never be as good an artist as my brother and he will never be able to write a critical analysis of historical issues. Yes, the playing field should be equal (extra time for kids with learning disabilities etc.).

c) Government legislation: In Ontario we have a 'provincial standard' of 70%. The result is that my expectations and assignments get watered-down to the point at which every student gets the 'standard'. The good kids get penalized by work that doesn't challenge them as they (and I) would like and the weak kids are done a grave disservice by misleading them as to their abilities. They get grades that let them into university and result in their dropping out during their first year. I'm not permitted to give exams as 1)it would cause undue stress on the kids 2)cause the students to either not take the course (too much work) or lower the 'standard' I feel badly as I can't properly prepare the kids for university or college (though I often find a way with a few kids). I've even been told that I shouldn't assign research essays for the same reasons.
For a time we weren't even allowed to set due dates. In other words, the kids could hand in assignments due in September at the end of the course in June. Try that with a university prof or your boss!

d) societal reasons: 'Why are you marking grammar and spelling? This is history class.' I am getting fed up with kids who don't know (or who have never been taught) the difference between 'their', 'there' and 'they're'. With the proliferation of instant messaging etc. (Kids are now misspelling this as 'ect'!) basic language skills have been lost. I still mark spelling and grammar but many teachers do not. My wife (also a teacher) is constantly struck by the fact that kids whom she finds are illiterate are getting 80-90% in their English class.
Those of you who have commented that kids don't read anymore are right. Most of my students have never read a book for pleasure, consider Entertainment Tonight a news show and rarely read a newspaper. At the end of last week I referenced the anti-Semitic murders in France (during a discussion of the Holocaust) and got blank looks.
OK, venting over! You're lucky this wasn't 'Confederacy of Dunces'! Thankl God I have the occasional kid who WANTS to learn.

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