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Lesson Plans

Re: Dumbing down is driving me NUTS!

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Dennis Freeman (freemad)
Mon, 25 Oct 1999 19:39:43 -0600

You are both right - real self esteem comes from real achievement and
effort. I think too many schools are like this and have misguided policies,
whether it's treating art as different than other disciplines or "building"
up kids by lowering the bar. I teach in a rural high school with a staff of
3 art teachers. Through lots of ups & downs & administrative / board
changes, our enrollment has stayed high & kids have stayed engaged. I think
the biggest reasons for this are: 1. High standards that are communicated
clearly; 2. Teachers with well-developed technical skills and a love for the
subject matter, and; 3. Subversion of school policies which don't promote
real learning and student responsibility (I mean it - that's why I have a
door on my room!) Kids want this - they flock to our department, and many
kids do well there who are bored & (therefore) difficult in other classes.
Since you are in a new school, see yourself as a pioneer, a rebel, an
explorer! If they won't let you give "real" grades, redefine & make more
rigorous the ones you are allowed to mark. If kids aren't up to grade level,
don't blame the kids or yourself - just go to work! The kids will follow if
you challenge them & make it fun. Of couse, it can't be fun if you aren't
happy. I wish you the best - I know how difficult it can be to work in a
situation where you don't agree w/ the school philosophy. Last thing - find
your allies! You are NOT the only one on your staff who feels this way.
Find the others, then form a cell - a subversive cell. Share ideas for
challenging kids that skirt the official policy, plot ways to celebrate REAL
achievement, undermine the culture of mediocrity! Good luck!
----- Original Message -----
From: ricki fromkin <fromkinr>
To: Lisa Skeen <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Monday, October 25, 1999 7:12 PM
Subject: Re: Dumbing down is driving me NUTS!

> Lisa Skeen wrote:
> >
> > Y'all, I confess I'm just about ready to quit this job. I have never
> > been so frustrated over anything in my life as I am about having to
> > dumb down (it seems like) everything I do because the kids in my
> > school aren't up to grade level. Is this my fault (or that of any
> > other teacher in my school)? No; we are a brand new school, and
> > dealing with the product of the local public school system. Is any
> > kid going to do better unless you push him to do better? No.
> >
> > I'm not allowed to give a student a zero (even if he's earned it), I
> > have to give him a grade of sixty nine (the high end of the F grade
> > range) instead, because a zero is not an F and is too hard to recover
> > from. (Go figure on that one.)
> >
> > I'm not allowed to give a 2 page paper assignment to 3rd grade
> > because "that's too much for them." This, in a school where there's
> > supposed to be 30 minutes of homework per day per subject. Last time
> > I looked, Art was a subject.
> >
> > Now I'm not going to be allowed to give real grades to any of the
> > classes. We had agreed that K-2 would get E,S,or N grades, and 3 - 5
> > and eventually - 8 would get letter grades. Now, 3 days before report
> > card day, my principal is taking a poll of the other 2 specialists,
> > and asking other school principals what THEY're doing, and I'm going
> > to end up having to give ESN grades to all levels. What this says to
> > me is, "Art is not important enough to warrant a grade".
> >
> > Supposedly there is a law that says I have to do all this dumbing
> > down. Joe Kid can have a conference with his parent and the special
> > ed teacher and they decide that every grade has to be curved for Joe,
> > to whatever degree such that, for example, if he makes an 80 I have to
> > call it an A. This is not fair to the other kids, much less to Joe,
> > who could do the work if somebody would insist that he do it instead
> > of playing around all the time.
> >
> > I am just about ready to explode. Or maybe implode. I'm sure it'll
> > be whichever does the least damage to anyone else, or the least good
> > either. :(
> >
> Lisa,
> I really feel for you. I myself wonder in amazement about our education
> system. Why is it such a problem to ask our students to work hard in
> order to achieve success? I'm teaching Art Foundations in an urban HS
> where the students are totally catered to without doing anything to earn
> this reward? I know my school is trying to build many student's self
> esteem, since a good number of them have grown up without a stable home
> environment. This is good, but I believe self esteem is built around
> personal achievement in doing a job or task well, getting a good grade,
> etc. By excusing students from learning or making things too easy for
> them, schools are actually hurting these kids in the long run. They're
> going to have a hell of a time in the real world coping with all life
> has to offer. It really is disheartening working in this environment.
> Sometimes I think I'd rather not teach than to become a part of a system
> that doesn't promote constructive learning, or simply that I don't
> believe in. Do you think most schools are like this?
> Ricki