For 10 years I attended a small rural school with no more than 80 students in Ruby, Alaska. I had the same teacher for 1st to 5th grade. It was in 4th grade that we got our first apple box computer. Standardized tests were not a big thing and students had plenty of playtime learning. My favorite memory was teddy bear day. We spent time building these cardboard houses and one day we got to bring our teddy bears to school for a movie party day with our teddy. “ Play, questioning, and – perhaps most important – imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning.” (Thomas and Brown, 2011) I remember learning my multiplication from a funny rap cassette and we knew how to make a multiplication chart.
Jr. high (6-8th grade) was different because I had three different teachers for our subjects and we rotate between 3 different rooms. Also, one, two or all three of those teachers left at the end of one year. I hated spelling and got my first “F” on my progress report. Science was a blast because it was all project based. We spent most of the fall and spring outside. I got to take a shop class and my parents still have my projects to this day. School was fun and we wanted to go every day. But because I love challenge, I applied and got accepted to Mount Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) in Sitka, Alaska. “Mt. Edgecumbe has a long, storied history of producing notable alumni, including rural Alaska legislators like Albert Kookesh and the late Al Adams.” (Caldwell, 2106) The culture was surely different! I was around people from all over Alaska and learned of places I had never heard of. Sitka was rainy and hardly any snow. The food was different and of course the education was hard. I loved my three years in Sitka. Again, we had tests but nothing standardized except SAT and ACT oh and maybe ASVAB.
I would not want to be a kid in school now. In 2001, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was created. NCLB had placed a lot of pressure on testing and high performance. I mean to be tested from kindergarten to twelfth grade is hard on a student. In 2015, NCLB was replaced with Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and it went into action the 2017-2018 school year. It seems that we lose so many school days (academic time) to testing. As a teacher I get tired of the all testing, I can imagine how the students feel. Students are labeled from kindergarten and for some that follows them all the way through school. I teach at an alternative high school and I had a young man in 2012 that NEVER passed an SBA in his entire time in school until his senior year. It took us three years to change the way he thought about testing and himself. We as a staff focused on the reading HSGQE with him and he passed it with flying colors. We built up his confidence in himself. He knew how to read, he just had that mindset that I am not smart enough pass. I never pass anything. “The ultimate endpoint of a mechanistic perspective is efficiency: The goal is to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can. In this teaching-based approach, standardization is reasonable way to do this, and testing is a reasonable way to measure the result.” (Thomas and Brown, 20110) But not everyone is great at taking standardized test and the students are only valued for the scores that get on these tests. I am not a great test taker and I know that I would have had trouble in school if I had to pass these tests.
We live in a technology age. We need to spend our time utilizing technology instead of fighting with our students to ‘put your cell phone’, ‘put your Ipad/Ipod away’, or ‘you don’t need a computer’. I have a problem with this at my school because the policy says this and I want to do this. Or we have limitations and I know that if we teach the students to utilize their technology, we would have more success. I have learned a lot from my own children just by letting them explore safely on our computer at home. Kelly Walsh put out an article in 2014, 8 Engaging Ways to use Technology in the Classroom to Create Lessons that Aren’t Boring, in this article she states “While lectures and lessons can be informative and even “edutaining” when delivered with passion and good materials by knowledgeable experts, sadly many traditional lectures and lessons are boring, and even worse often ineffective. The good news is that the Web is loaded with great free tools that can enable teachers to bring a sense of fun and engagement to their lessons.” Walsh’s 8 engaging ways are:
Incorporate Student Input & Gather Feedback.
Let Students Create.
Have Students Collaborate.
Project Based Learning.
Bring in a Guest or Two.
I love my job as a teacher because of the difference I get to make in my students lives. I love that I work at an alternative school and our curriculum and schedule is different than the main high school. I use the next generation science standard, like I am supposed to but I don’t focus on testing. I focus on learning is fun and I seem to have more success with my students.
Caldwell, Suzanna. (2016). Revolution in rural Alaska education? Many embracing regional schools. http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/revolution-rural-alaska-education-many-embracing-regional-schools
Thomas, D. & Brown, J. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Soulellis Studio. Kindle Edition.
Walsh, K. (2014). 8 Engaging Ways to use Technology in the Classroom to Create Lessons That Aren’t Boring. EmergingEdTech. Retrieved June 5, 2019 from https://www.emergingedtech.com/2014/10/technology-create-lessons-that-arent-boring/