Waiting for Superman

25 February 2011

I just got done watching the documentary Waiting for Superman with Noah and it struck a chord with me. The documentary is about America's education system and the problems we are facing as a nation. The movie followed five individual students, and their struggles, across the country. Each was in a low income neighborhood attending schools that had high dropout rates. The kids and their families were trying to win lotteries to get into better, higher rated schools. 

One thing that was said in the documentary that I recognized in my own thoughts was that after coming to college I looked back at my k-12 system to realize how shorted I had been! My school system wasn't terrible, it was likely very average, but at college I talked to people who had so many more opportunities (and stories of better teachers) simply because of where they lived. 

Waiting for Superman wasn't about providing solutions (although they did relate how very important every individual teacher is to this system). Yet they really pushed the viewer to start thinking critically and to be aware of what could be changed in our current system. 

I fully believe that being a teacher is a lot of work and that teaching is a job that is undervalued. Beyond every day stresses teachers are trying to convey important knowledge and concepts across to their students, to help them live fulfilling lives. Part of the problem is learning how to engage students. How do we keep kids interested in learning? That is the teacher's job! How is it that kids can memorize all the lyrics to a song but not memorize where the noble gases are on the periodic table of elements? Why not turn certain pieces of the periodic table into a rap song? Far too often teachers fall into a pattern of worksheets, lectures, and required note-taking. 

We need to rebuild the system from the bottom up. Our current methods of teaching have not been working sufficiently enough. My professor from my Science Methods Class introduced me to a concept last semester that I had never heard of called the 5 E's. He was so against traditional teaching methods that we were forbidden in class to even say the word "Lecture" (aka the L-word). This new 5E concept says that kids should explore an idea or concept before ever hearing about it from their teacher. They will notice things on their own, the teacher expands on their gained knowledge, then they experiment some more. Science should be so fun! Labs every day with explosions, gummy bears, and messes everywhere.   Why lecture at students when you could be exploring with them? There is no reason that learning shouldn't be exciting and invigorating!

I think it will take a long time and a big overhaul but it will be worth it all in the end. Kids deserve more out of education than what they're currently receiving. Teachers need to be qualified and motivated, not at peace to give up on some students that will "never achieve" and rather set high standards for all students and be willing to make personal sacrifices in order to see students achieve. Of course, the system itself needs to change - there are many teachers out there currently trying their darndest to help their students learn and have fun with education. They are to be commended!

I know it won't be easy, but I hope that one day I can make a difference in a kid's life and help them reach goals that they are fully capable of, even if they didn't realize it when they walk into the classroom. 

Did you ever have a really amazing teacher? A really terrible one? What made them good or bad? How do you think we could fix our educational system?


Ashley said...

I haven't seen the documentary, but I watched Oprah do all her coverage of it! I do want to see the documentary, but it never played in Oklahoma (so lame). It's hard for me as a Mom. Josh & I both grew up and in private, Christian schools and had a great education, but our parents paid an arm and a leg for it. We don't necessary mind private school, but we'd like to avoid Christian school (not that we aren't Christians, just that we didn't like extremes that were taught to us) which is even more expensive. It's left me thinking a lot about homeschooling, but I know that will be a huge undertaking - especially if I want my kids to be testing ahead and well. I wish the system could be fixed so things like this wouldn't be so much of an issue for Moms like me!

Haley K said...

Wonderful post!! Makes me think a lot about my Brooks and the schools he'll attend... It makes me happy to know there are teachers out there like you & your professor who don't just go by the rules (aka give lectures every day) but seek to inspire their students to enjoy learning!!! :)

Haley K said...

PS - loved the quote by William Arthur Ward :) And that cartoon/comic was hilarious! sad, but hilarious ;)

Sarah Nicole said...

I need to see this movie. I have only heard a little about it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Thanks for an amazing post as well.

Love that quote so much.

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