Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Would You Go Retro?

I've been away. Done a little thinking, some reading, had some funerals, celebrated some things, took an actual vacation. I've taken quite a few mental health days. And now, I'm feeling like myself again. That means for you, that I've been thinking and have something to say.

I'm day dreaming out loud here on this one.

What if there was a "retro" school district? Would you enroll your kids?

Let's start with the obvious. Technology is here to stay. It's an everyday part of life, including my life. If I didn't embrace technology, I'd still be putting all these thoughts in spiral bound notebooks with blue ball point pen. (Yes, I can hear you saying that maybe wasn't such a bad thing.)

Next up, schools aren't all bad. I, for one, am generally pretty happy with ours. They make a gargantuan effort to work with my hardest kids for their greatest successes.

Third. Yes, I understand I can home school whenever I like. It's just that I don't like. It's not a good match for me and we all suffer for it.

Now, the idea of "retro" schools.

Perhaps it's just me being particularly nostalgic for days gone bye. Maybe it's brought on by a child getting ready to start driver's ed. Maybe it's the reentry of lost high school friends back into my life. Maybe it's the familiar school day sting of being blown off by an old friend.

Or just maybe it's a mom being observant and thinking.

I think our schools are overrun with gimmicks and gadgets and prizes.  There are too many incentives and chances and changes in routines. There is too much glitz and drama.

In high school they are being bribed or rewarded with candy, time off and now raffle drawings. For what? Doing their work. Across the boards there are no letter grades, just numbers and rubrics and statistics from tests that are supposed to tell us something. They get electronic recess weekly if they meet the general behavior standard for the first 4 days of the week. There are so many prizes for things I literally lose track and my house is being overrun by junk.

In my fantasy, there is a "retro" school. They have a regular 8 hour school day and eat lunch at lunch time, not 10:AM. The lunch served is boring yet nutritious. There are no vending machines, it isn't a mall. Staff and students would use books. The paper kind. They would copy their work from the book into their notebook with pencils and pens, just like in "olden times." Work would be expected when it was due and the quality expectation would exceed "done." Novels would be read instead of the video version watched. The occasional field trip would be a treat instead of an expectation. Class parties would be parties instead of generic celebrations and they would be short little no nonsense cookie and juice affairs instead of Pintrest spectacles. Recess and gym would be filled with the basics like jump rope, kick ball, tag and games we all hated like Red Rover and dodge ball.  I'm all in favor of scratchy records, film strips turned by hand that sometimes broke and mimeographed worksheets. Bring on the plain metal desks and plain yellow pencils.

I could go on and on, but you're getting the idea.

I think we are substituting the spectacular for the mundane to our detriment.

There are things our kids need to learn and we aren't teaching them.

That, my friends, is a shame.

Kids need to know how to be alone, for quiet, for play, for their own good and for our future good. Working alone at your own desk, quietly on your own work, isn't a bad thing.

Kids need to know how to be bored. Most of life is sucked up with boring things and they need to know how to cope when they aren't being entertained by someone else every single second. Copying spelling words, 10 times each, every day of the week is boring, but it works.

Kids need to know how to work hard. We have somehow given this very wrong impression that hard work is a bad thing. It isn't. Hard work is how most of life gets done. Math is hard, period. You still need to learn it.

Kids need to know that life isn't fair. It just isn't. The sooner they learn it, the easier their lives will be. There will always be a person getting picked first and another getting picked last. There will always be a winner and a loser. Not everyone can always have a turn or a treat.

I don't think our schools should be playgrounds of technology and ego feeding grounds.

I think schools would do themselves and all of us a favor and go "retro." A lot of us, are the first to say, yes, school was hard, boring, unjust, etc. but we learned. Both academic and life lessons that serve us well now as adults.

With all the technological glamour taking our focus to the new must have things, we've taken our eyes of the real goals of school.

So, what do you think? Would you go "retro?"

1 comment:

Chris Putwen said...