From a young age, children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. The answers are rarely based in knowledge of the economic times, income potential, or the current or projected job market. The answers come from their heart and imagination.
A garbage man.
An animal doctor (or veterinarian for the precocious).
A basketball player.
The adult who asks usually listens with a smile and offers a word or two of praise or encouragement, but rarely do they stop and ask themselves the same thing. Or if they do, they are not nearly as apt to consult their heart or imagination.
This divide between a child’s world and an adult’s world may seem to be the difference between an imagined world and the real one, but this is not true. The world seen through a child’s eyes is the same world that adults see, there is simply just less obstructing their view.
Many teachers and parents who spend an exorbitant amount of time with children realize that their status as “in charge” has more to do with safety than anything. Children almost always have more to teach us than we them. Children almost always see more than we do or look at things differently with fresh eyes.
When education ignores these truths, bad things happen.Children can become frustrated, disengage, or engage in power struggles. They do not have the words to express how they are feeling and are praised when they obey and punished when they do not. Children are being trained to ignore their hearts and imaginations at a young age.
Many schools are racing to catch up with the new standards of achievement that have recently been set. These schools and the administrators that run them are armed with rhetoric to guard against any criticism that they should slow down and look at the repercussions of the rushed reforms. Perhaps more children will read early or acquire math skills at an accelerated pace, but these are measurable gains that do not show the whole picture. There is no spreadsheet of data to show what is being lost.
On the other hand, there are other schools that see the damage being done. They try their best to work around these reforms and shaking their heads during conversations about the direction that education is heading. There are teachers who try to make test prep fun and salvage as much of the dwindling classroom time as they can for more engaging projects and lessons. Still others are thankful that they do not teach a tested grade or subject (yet). There are administrators that must bite their tongues and hope that the pendulum swings sooner than later. Even a few administrators have been bold enough to speak out.
How can we turn the tide, and support these schools that feel like they want to put the breaks on this runaway train?
One day when you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they will reply with a test score.