Is it counting knuckles, or is it no child will be left behind,

doing what we want, and that is considered normal.

Bird Droppings January 13, 2019

Is it counting knuckles, or is it no child will be left behind,

doing what we want, and that is considered normal.

One of my students asked a few years back what day of the month the following Friday would be, and I responded January 30. Just as quick, another said he thought it was the first. I said no, it was the thirty-first, and he proceeded to count his knuckles, “a knuckle has 31 days”, he said. He figured it was the thirty-first. Later on, I watched as we did math computation tests, and he was using his fingers as a portable calculator; I was intrigued. Perhaps it was that I also knew the personality of this student and how he comes off as being such a bad dude that intrigued me. But in a lighter moment with no planning, his other side comes out. It is sad because this side of him does try to succeed. However, so often, even for me, he will shut down and sulk away to wherever he chooses and vegetate. I am not listening, you cannot make me listen, or I don’t care, and best of all, give me a zero will spill from his mouth. These are the students w let slip through the cracks and potholes of standardized education.

I was thinking how great if you could plan your day around the moments a student is willing to count fingers and knuckles, maybe call it “knuckle time.” Those moments when being embarrassed or ashamed of your capabilities are gone, and you can move ahead, even if only in micro-steps. We all experience this at some time or another. As I watch and listen to students, I see pieces of myself in others. How we go about our days, those little things we do to survive the onslaught of society. Some of us have enough to make it throughout the day, and others have only counting knuckles, and when the task goes beyond that capability, frustration and defeat self-imposed. “Give me a zero.” Maybe I need to find a way to stop giving zeros as a teacher. Have I pondered enough why this kid chooses to do nothing?

I used a trick of sorts to get extra time out of students one day. Biology questions were two to three per page and very simple with tricks to say true and false sort of questions at times, but answers might alter true and false to false and true. So the student did have to read and think about questions and answers. Some students made it through level two, others to level four before difficulty set in. Today we will do more, and the goal is for students to be successful throughout the process till they reach a level of discomfort and then set up the programming and planning of lessons accordingly. Unlike many situations, these students face adjustments and or modifications, which can be made.

So often in school, we want every child to fit the parameters we establish as teachers and further up the line as curriculum gurus, experts, and school specialists. All ninth-graders should do this and tenth graders this item. I was listening to the questioning of the Secretary of Education yesterday. So many issues with this person, not including absolutely zero experience or understanding of public education. Perhaps the first piece of legislation might be that no child will be left behind who does what we want and is considered totally normal should be the bill’s legislative name. NCLBWDWWWAICTN might be too long of an acronym, so we can shorten it to ENDED.

However, what about the exceptions in life? Years ago, I found myself as an exception. It was in fourth grade, and I was sitting getting my paperback, and the teacher had given me a C on my paper in which I had four wrong. One of my friends next to me had four wrong and an A, so definitely, I was confused. This continued, and I asked my mom about it day by day. She went in for a conference, and the teacher told her I wasn’t working up to my potential, so she graded me differently. Guess what happened? I quit. No more extra reading for schoolwork, although I still read volumes for fun, no more extra credit. I got left behind because a teacher failed to see I didn’t fit into her parameters.

I once saw a pegboard with round holes, and all the pegs were square and did not fit. Children would try and then, after hitting did not work, finally quit. The demonstration was a psychological test with young children. The funny thing is we do this all the time in school and on the job as teachers. We want people to fit our standards on our pegboard.

“Children love and want to be loved, and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom.” Erik Erikson

I watched the paradoxes of our federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, where frustrated kids quit school because of so-called graduation tests. For example, as things progressed in Georgia, kids who did not graduate years ago because of a Graduation Test score could now get diplomas. Lives were altered, and some even shattered. It is a wonder that frustrated teachers leave due to judges on students taking standardized tests. What about being the teacher of a math class where your entire class failed the prerequisite for your class and now is in your class since prerequisite is no longer offered and you have an end of course test that measures your teaching ability, and sixty-seven percent fail. No one looks at pretest scores and posttest scores and significant improvement and learning that occurred. All that matters is that end-of-course test scores and the failure rate shows you are not teaching. A whole class and teacher get left behind.

I found this quote well over five years ago and thought it would be good to toss out. I think someone retrieved it from his trash can since he has proven he does not believe this.

“I think the law is too punitive, too prescriptive, it’s led to a dumbing down of standards, and it’s led to a narrowing of curriculum. We need to fix all of those things. We have to reward success, reward excellence, and look at growth and gain, not just absolute test scores. We have to be much more flexible.” Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, before he was secretary of education

As I watch how politics interferes and creates havoc in education and so many areas, I wonder why we have politicians. It makes me want to count my knuckles and see if the answer is correct, and that is knowing I do not have enough knuckles for this problem.

“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.” B. F. Skinner

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

Maybe we forget this; perhaps we want education to be this neat package we can take off the shelf and spoon feed to our students and the students get or do not get, and we go on leaving behind the ones that don’t get it. What about the kid with three knuckles? My son had a friend who lost a finger in childhood, and he would be at a disadvantage counting knuckles.

“Every acquisition of accommodation becomes material for assimilation, but assimilation always resists new accommodations.”  Jean Piaget

I wonder if we did pretests and posttests in congress and the Senate on ethics and performance if our elected officials would pass the grade or be left behind. No Congressman left behind now, which is a bill I could get behind. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.  

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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