Posted in education, know better do better, mindset, motivation, thoughtfulness

“But they need to be ready!”

I wrote over the weekend about K-12 school standards and their inappropriateness.

A loud argument in favor of the standards is “kids need to be ready!”

Ready for what?

Preschoolers need to learn their letters so they’re ready for kindergarten. But we decided that they need that for kindergarten.

It’s top-down. We want them to know xyz when they graduate, which means they need this in 11th grade, this in 10th, and on down. (This leaves, in some cases, parents going nuts about where their kid is going for preschool, because of the trajectory to college. Seriously???)

As I mentioned the other day, this top-down thinking doesn’t take cognitive or emotional readiness into account.

It also never leaves space for us to be present, if we’re always looking ahead to what’s next. What about what’s now? Can we learn something and just enjoy it now that we know it? Can we take time and learn things just for fun? Can we learn that learning is fun, so we continue to pursue it when we’re not obligated?

We’re still operating in the mindset that created public schools over 100 years ago. The world is different. Jobs are different. Societal survival skills are different. What we know about human development (physical, mental, emotional) is different. Schools need to be different.

We need kids who can work with one another. We need kids who are creative. We need kids who are willing to be vulnerable (because you can’t be creative without vulnerability).

But teamwork, creativity, and vulnerability aren’t measurable on multiple choice tests.

We’re applying assembly line thinking to an era of opportunities that aren’t assembly line.

Also in the mix: we need to recognize and celebrate growth. A third grader who reads at a first grade level is seen by many as a failure and is a ding against a school’s competence. But if that child started the year without knowledge of the alphabet, completing the year at a first grade level is fantastic!

Teachers already know this.

(There is a solid handful of legitimate reasons why or how a child could get to third grade without being literate.)

Taking a small tangent…

I see such a drastic disconnect between “they need to be ready!” in an academic sense versus every other sense.

We (as a society) don’t teach our kids how to interact in a healthy way with other people. (As a society, we’re not very good at it, so it’s not taught or modeled for many many kids…)

We don’t teach our kids how to manage money. How to budget. To save. To prioritize. To value quality. To delay gratification. (I’ve heard many people say this should be taught in school, and it could be, but what about parents?)

We don’t teach our kids good food habits. Good movement habits. Good screen habits.

Don’t they need all of those things to be ready? Why is only advanced math and interpreting classic literature considered “readiness”?

Let’s reconsider what we need out of kids when they’re done.

Let’s take it a step farther and consider what we need out of kids if they drop out. What if we get them for 8 or 9 years instead of 13?

What do you think kids need that is appropriate for schools to provide? What should schools add, and what should they subtract, in your opinion?

Posted in education, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Standards and accountability and homework

One in three children in the US can’t read at grade level.

For many people, that means that schools aren’t doing their jobs and we need more accountability and more testing.

What if we redefined “at grade level”?

I got into this a bit the other day, but we have completely redefined “at grade level” since I was a kid.

My experience was different (I went to Catholic school for kindergarten), but my sister, two years younger, went to the public school where I went beginning in first grade.

She went to kindergarten for half days. In kindergarten, they learned the alphabet. I remember the rhyme for A. (I don’t know why I know that one at all, or why I don’t also know any others…)

A, A for Alligator Al

Apples, ants, and Africa

Acrobats and animals

A, A for Alligator Al

(I looked for it online but couldn’t find it. Is there something the internet can’t provide?!)

Reading was something we started in first grade. Kindergarten was for basics. (Kindergarten was also not for four-year-olds.)

There’s quite a bit of research that informs us that learning to read young isn’t useful. We can wait until 7 or 8 years old before starting, and the long-term result is better, because brains are more developed and are ready.

(This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions. Occasionally, kids read at 3 or 4 years old because they just pick it up or otherwise show readiness. But we shouldn’t base national standards on the outliers.)

It seems that we need to feel like we’re doing something instead of actually doing what’s best. Small kids need to play. They learn through play. Gross and fine motor skills are important.

What good is research if we’re going to ignore the results anyway?

Speaking of research…

Homework in elementary school isn’t useful.

Part of the homework problem right now ties right back in to the standards. Teachers are teaching content that isn’t appropriate for their kids (because they’re required to), so the kids need homework for reinforcement. Because it’s too hard. And because there’s too much of it.

So.

Let’s dial back the standards to something developmentally-appropriate.

Before we even do that, let’s have a conversation about what school is for. What’s the goal? What do we want kids to be able to do when they leave the system? Then: what are ways we can achieve that? (Separate post on that another day.)

We haven’t overhauled the system in a long time, and the system is in need of an overhaul.

Let’s dial back the standards to be developmentally appropriate.

In that upheaval, kids are more likely to learn to read when they’re ready. Which means more kids will be literate. And also that reading won’t have such negative emotions connected to it for so many people. Which means overall literacy will be higher. More people will read for fun and will be able to read and understand contracts and the like. And the tide rises.

I can’t tell you how many people have mentioned in casual conversation that they’re not good at [reading/writing/math]. That’s because of how it’s structured in school. And because they have negative emotions connected to learning it.

It’s not the schools’ fault. Legislation dictates what be taught at what level. In Arizona (and probably many or most other states), we have mandates on how many minutes per week be spent on the core subject areas, and the state standards outline all of the content knowledge and skills that need to be taught in that time.

(It’s a lot. It’s too much.)

We need people to stand up against the testing movement (which is lining some folks’ pockets while stressing our kids and teachers and stealing time and money from schools). We need people to look at the research and say, “Hey! I want our schools to do what’s best for kids. And this isn’t it!”

Teachers have been saying it for a long time, but our voices have been discounted. It needs to come from parents, from community members, from businesses.

We can do better.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, motivation

Writing, blogging, thinking, planning

August 1 marked nine months of a post here every day. I made it through the holidays, through the end of the school year, through 2.5 weeks out of town, and now through the beginning of the school year. I feel pretty good about that!

There are posts I’ve written that I think are pretty excellent and other posts that I just hope are not anyone’s first introduction to my writing.

(But… which posts I love and which posts you love, based on your likes and comments, often don’t match. So there’s that.)

Within my goal of spending more time writing, I’m writing quite a bit of blog and not very much book. But I want to finish the book. I really want to finish the book.

On the other hand, I feel proud of having maintained this blog daily.

So this is what I’ve decided. I’m going to continue with a post every day through Halloween. That’ll complete the year. (I started on November 1, 2018.)

I’m going to drop to three posts per week and spend the other days writing my book.

Because time is finite, and energy is finite, and most days, I can’t spend my best mental energy on writing because I have to get up and go to work. The point of that is just that I’m already working on reduced brain power almost all the time when I write, and I can’t siphon more time out of the even-less-brain-power time that’s left. It won’t be anything worth reading, and it will be tedious to write. Lose-lose.

So I’ll keep the same time I have and use it differently. When the book is done, perhaps I’ll come back to my daily blog habit. Too far out to make that call now.

And if you’re enjoying my writing and will be sad to have installments less often, it’s just practice in delayed gratification, because at some point, there will be a whole book!

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Why it’s hard

We have too much physical stuff, too much emotional stuff, too much junk to eat, not enough exercise or sleep or meaningful connections with people.

Because—

Society values and promotes

  • being busy
  • being stressed
  • being underslept
  • fast food
  • large portions
  • cheap everything
  • convenient (to accommodate busy)
  • sitting
  • reactive medicine over preventative
  • pills over natural
  • social isolation

But we are society. It’s not an “other” thing. It is us.

We can push back. We can vote with our dollars (and with our votes). We can choose to swim upstream. We can choose what we buy and what we eat and how we spend time and with whom we spend time. We can choose what we say yes to and what we reject.

Our current path is not sustainable.

Who’s in?

Posted in mental health, mindset, motivation

Debt and interest

This popped up in my Facebook memories the other day:

“Looking up info about my student loan … It will accrue $77.45 in interest in the next 25 days. This thing has got to go.”

(It’s long gone!)

Years ago, I saw an exercise where the writer* took a calendar. She calculated how much she made per day. She colored in the calendar for how many days of work it took her to pay for each of the expenses she had.

I don’t remember what her calendar looked like. But I know that she made interest a separate category.

She had a visual representation of how many days she had to work every month just to pay interest.

It was powerful and motivating.

There are a lot of finance “gurus” out there who will sell you a plan for reducing your debt. All of those plans work for some people. None of them work for all people.

Some don’t work for everyone’s income level. Some don’t work for everyone’s state of mind or way of thinking about the world.

Anyone with disposable income can pay off debt faster than they are now, if it becomes their priority. There are tons of reasons why it’s not people’s priority, from comfort shopping to gambling addiction to not enough emotional energy to deal with it to sheer lack of willpower against “cute” things or things that are a “good deal.” And on and on. As much variety as any “I know I would be better off if I did This Thing but I’m not doing The Thing.”

Life is less stressful with less debt. We trash talk “kids these days” who are looking for instant gratification, but it’s not just the kids…

 

*I don’t remember what the site was or who the writer was or I would give credit. If you know, let me know. Or maybe this is a fairly common thing to do, but I don’t remember seeing it again…