After subbing for a Kindergarten class last Friday, I’ve come to the conclusion that 5 and 6 year old children were not meant to be cooped up in a classroom for seven hours a day, even with a recess break (all of 20 minutes) and a gym class (a generous 50 minutes.) I mean no disrespect to kindergarten teachers. My own daughter is a kindergarten teacher. In fact, I have more admiration and respect for kindergarten teachers after walking in their shoes for a day. But I still believe that 5 and 6 year olds should not have to be in school for so long five days a week.
I’m sure that they are better behaved for their normal teachers than they were for me, so I know that my level of frustration at trying to get them to do what they were supposed to be doing was probably higher than it would be if I had had better control. But just saying that makes me cringe. I do not want to control twenty small children. I do not like the idea of those kids having to be controlled. It just makes me so sad to think about them having to be controlled in order for their teachers not to go home every day feeling overwhelmed.
You may be thinking, children have to learn how to behave in social situations and going to school and learning those lessons is good for them. I call BS. Children will learn how to behave if their parents teach them. They will learn proper behavior and manners if their parents model what they want their children to emulate. They do not need to go someplace outside of the home for five days a week, seven hours a day, nine and a half months a year for thirteen years in order to learn how to get along with others.
Don’t get me wrong. Those kids were adorable. They were very sweet and loving. I got so many hugs and “I love you Mrs. Substitute” that my heart was overjoyed. I learned all twenty of their names before the end of the day. I bumped into one of them with his brother and mother at the grocery store afterschool and he shyly waved at me and proudly told his mom that I was his sub. He was one of the ones whose behavior had to be corrected many, many times over during the course of the day. I truly enjoyed my day, but I hated having to tell these little kiddos to stop rough housing, hold down the roar, be quiet in the hallways, keep your hands to yourselves, chairs are not meant for throwing… I made up a little sing song chant, “I hear too much talking” that I must have repeated at least a couple of hundred times. I never asked them to recite it after me, but they started doing that on their own. I’d sing it and they’d sing it back to me. I’d keep singing it until all the kids in class realized I was singing it meaning that I wanted them to stop talking. I also had to say, “1, 2, 3, eyes on me” after which they would recite, “1, 2, eyes on you” countless times to get their attention. Other times I would do a series of clapping that went 1, 2, 1, 2 3 after which they would do that same rhythmical clapping and were supposed to get quiet. Another time I clicked the lights off and on and off and on to get them quiet enough to listen to me.
There are some little ones that are fine with being in school, in fact, they seem to thrive on the attention they get. I take that back. All of the kids seemed to thrive when they were receiving attention, but there were some who knew how to follow instructions, enjoyed following instructions, didn’t purposefully ignore the instructions. There were two little guys who had the most boisterous behavior with some of it more than just boisterous actually misbehaving, inappropriate behavior that needed correction over and over again. Yet, when they were each given individual attention, focused attention at times when they were behaving appropriately, they were model students, patient and listening with rapt attention, but I couldn’t focus solely on them and neglect everyone else the whole day. I think this shows that some kids are just too immature to be able to behave appropriately for a long period of time, that some kids have difficulty being in a group so large and being able to control their own behavior.
I think it’s important for kids to learn manners and how to behave, but I also think it’s important for kids to be kids and not to be expected to act like little adults. I don’t think that having twenty 5 years olds together for so long everyday is a good environment for them. I worry that the two little guys who had trouble controlling themselves will have to be admonished so often that they will begin to think of themselves as troublemakers and may begin bullying others in retaliation for getting in trouble or being told on.
I know that there aren’t a lot of options out there for families. Private schools are expensive. Homeschooling means one parent needs to be at home and not working or for the parents to work in shifts so that one of them can be with their kids. These options may not even be possible for many families. And I don’t think public schools are going to make any changes to their system, except maybe for adding an extra year before and/or after the already existing grade levels which is contrary to what I feel is needed. I’ve heard talk of both possibilities, adding a pre-pre-k for 3 year olds or adding a 13th grade level. I believe that neither of those is a good choice. I think 13 levels is already too many.
In a perfect world, I would want public schools to allow for more individuality, more creativity, and a system where students and parents could choose a schedule, at least in the early years and then again in the later years, that would accommodate children’s needs. In the early years, kids who can control their behavior for long periods of time can be at school as long as they want, but those who can only control their behavior for short amounts of time should be allowed to come and go as needed. Perhaps the kindergarten and first grade levels could be set up where one or two teachers work on one subject each, reading, math, art, music… Children who can handle being at school for the whole seven hours can go between the subject areas and work on each subject as long as they need or want, as long as their interest holds them. The teachers would be there to answer questions, give instruction when they see someone struggling or to introduce subject matter as needed. Children who can only handle short periods of time could choose which subjects to attend and tailor their attention spans to the subjects that they want or need to work on.
Children who are too immature to know how to act in large groups should not be allowed to attend until their behavior indicates that their desire to learn is important enough to them to control their behavior. School should be a privilege. It should be a place where kids are excited to go, a place where they feel special and empowered, where their curiosity about the unknown is encouraged and where they are allowed to explore and learn at their own speed, where they are challenged but not made to feel dumb or slow or behind others.
In the middle range, I think that the core knowledge should be taught and when a student shows mastery he or she should be allowed to progress to another level. It shouldn’t matter what age or grade level the student is. All the subjects should be available so that a student has access when he or she is ready for it.
In the teen years, I feel that school should again be tailored to a student’s needs. According to the National Sleep Foundation most teenagers need around 9 ½ hours of sleep each night. Some do fine with 8 ½, but most high schools start too early in the morning for teenagers to get 8 hours of sleep much less 9. During the teen years, their natural sleep patterns tend to keep them awake until at least 11 pm and most high schools start before 7:30 am. Between homework, jobs and social activities, few teens are actually asleep by 11 and the website says that most teens are only getting 6 to 7 hours of sleep.
I also feel that by the upper grades, kids have an idea of whether or not they want to or are able to attend college. I think that high schools should have different tracks for kids that know they are going on to college or hope to go to college and those that have no interest in attending college. The track that has no intention of going to college could try their hand at different skill sets to see if any of those spark an interest. Carpentry, welding, plumbing, secretarial skills, court reporting, and culinary arts are just a few skills that might interest some students and allow them to explore different job paths.
I know today’s post was suppose to be about employment, but my employment on Friday (subbing in a public school) led me to write about education. In a previous post of mine, Should An Ex-Homeschooling Mom Even Be a Public School Substitute Teacher I questioned whether or not I should even be subbing as it seems ironic that having homeschooled my own kids I should be subbing in public schools now. After subbing in three different schools, in three different grade levels I am still wondering if I am right for this job. Only time will tell. For the moment, I am still fully ensconced in my support of homeschooling, that’s for sure.