Raking Leaves

Today was one of those fall days where the winds is blowing and leaves are falling like large snowflakes to the grown. The yard is filled with large multi-colored brittle flakes we call leaves. After dinner, I wandered outside with my rake and started making piles. My 4 year old twins came running out full of excitement and energy. They wanted to help. My first thought was NO. It won’t get done and they will make a mess. But, I can’t resist my son’s PLEASE, with his sister chiming in, in support.

After making sure they each had a rake, well “their” rake. We started making piles. They enjoyed helping me. As the pile got larger, they did enjoy taking turns jumping in and throwing the leaves in the air. What 4 year old or for that matter child wouldn’t. After taking turns, they would rake the pile back up. When it came time to bag the pile they would help by picking up the few leaves that would fit in their small hands in throw them at the bag. The leaves frequently missed their mark, and they would try again. Eager to help out daddy.


After helping a bit they wander to a different area of the yard to play. As I continued to rake the leaves I thought about how eager my children, all children are to help out. So often, adults given in to their gut reaction to turn away their help, because it will slow down the process. Adults just want to get the job done, kids like to have fun doing the job.

When I survey my neighborhood, I don’t see many families out doing yard work. It is either a lone adult or a company doing the work, even in the houses with teenaged children.

Are adults taking away prime learning opportunities from their children today? Do we focus to much on finishing the job we forget to enjoy the journey and on that journey teach our children?

I think about my students who are living in situations where parents either don’t have time to teach them the lessons that really matter in life or have to act like parents themselves.

Take time to rake the leaves with a child, It will make your life and theirs more fulfilled. Even if it takes a bit longer!

Forced Malpractice?

When thinking about the education climate today, I feel that teachers are being placed in a situation where they are almost forced into malpractice. Now most people think of malpractice as medical or legal term. Malpractice as defined by the free legal dictionary:  

“The failure to meet a standard of care or standard of conduct that is recognized by a profession reaches the level of malpractice when a client or patient is injured or damaged because of error.”

Teachers are supposed to create learners in their classrooms. Schools should need to create authentic learning environments that are relevant  to young minds. Lessons should allow students to explore open-ended questions and learn should be accomplished at an individual’s own pace. All students learn in their own way on their own time table. All educators know that student learn in many different ways and this learning can be expressed in all forms. These are the standards and conducts that teaching professions need to accomplish.

In our RTTT and NCLB world, legislators have created laws that measure student learning on strict linear growth charts. Teachers are then ranked and judged by the yearly growth. This growth is measured using one single expression of knowledge: answers on a multiple choice test. These test are given frequently to constantly monitor growth.

At this point I hope you see the stark contrast from professional standards/ principals of learning and how we are attempting to measure learning. SO how is it Malpractice?

Teachers are being forced to test, test and test students to measure their learning. When most teachers know every child’s ability level. This testing takes away from the true purpose of school: To teach students how to learn. Instead of teaching how to learn teachers feel the need/pressure to teach how to take tests. This environment removes the relevance from all topics. Teachers often lose sight of the WHY, and resort to “You need to know it because it is on the test” answer to the why question.

Principal, Donald Sternberg, from New York State recently wrote this about the testing environment in a letter home to parents in his district:

“One significant issue as we move into this new school year is that we will, at times, find it difficult if not impossible to teach authentic application of concepts and skills with an eye towards relevancy. What we will be teaching students is to be effective test takers; a skill that does not necessarily translate into critical thinking – a skill set that is necessary at the college level and beyond. This will inevitably conflict with authentic educational practice – true teaching.”

The testing nature of schools today is hurting our students. Teachers are turning to practices that create great test takers but not true thinkers.   This system is falling apart due to over regulation by legislators who champion education in speeches  but not in-laws. It is time to stop the system that damaging our students.

When looking at education in this light, I am surprised nobody has sued for malpractice. As a teacher we can say we were forced to by  the legislature.