Why Education Matters

Today in Indiana is Red for Ed Action Day. Let me tell you what this means. People, including teachers, wear red in support of educators. A lot of schools are closed today, and there is currently a multitude of teachers, some of whom I know personally are marching in downtown Indianapolis and taking on the Statehouse. I had other obligations today, or I might have been one of them.

If you haven’t seen the pictures, it’s so inspiring. What people are doing today is so important. It’s no secret that teachers are not paid as well as we should be. Class sizes are growing, which means we’re getting more and more students each year. Many of the teachers I am in contact with, including my student teaching mentor for next semester are attempting to teach 150 kids throughout the day, and everything they bring with them, both good and bad. Teachers are marching today to protest their pay, class sizes, standardized testing, and other issues that we see every single day.

Being a teacher is a constant battle and struggle. We want our students to be equipped for life once they graduate, but we have all these standards we have to meet. Don’t get me wrong: standards are great as a guiding point. But sometimes standards can also be a huge hindrance. We teachers are pulled this way and that to try to do everything. We have to meet the standards, we have to prepare our students for the standardized tests, and we have to make sure that our students are capable to function in their jobs and futures.

I’m going to say something really radical: standardized tests are ridiculous. “But Kim,” you ask, “you’re a teacher. How can you possibly say that?!” Let me tell you. Did you know that up until recently, the SAT used to penalize you more for getting an answer wrong than for leaving an answer blank? In other words, I could leave an entire SAT blank and receive a better score than if I were to get every answer wrong, especially because you didn’t lose points for a blank answer. Do you know how terrible that is?! Doing that encourages students not to try if they don’t know how to do a problem or answer a question. That won’t fly past the high school classroom. Why should it be acceptable within the classroom? If you don’t do something on a job, you’re probably going to get in more trouble than if you try to work the problem out. Fortunately, they revised the SAT back in March 2016, but it should not have ever been an issue in the first place.

Also, when it comes to standardized testing (and testing in general), not everyone is a good test taker. People have disabilities or test anxieties. Your intelligence should never be measured by your ability to color in the correct circle or oval. It is for this reason that I don’t plan on using multiple-choice tests in my classroom. Instead, I will do more of an essay-type test, where students make connections for big events and see the process rather than remembering the facts.

This brings me then to the title of today’s blog post: Why education matters. While standardized testing does not matter, education in itself does. I want to spend the rest of the time today telling you exactly why education matters. Maybe it will help you understand why days like today are so important for everyone.

Education matters because…

  • It helps students solve problems- Hello math. Being able to solve problems and having the skills to do it is vital for any career. While schools may not directly prepare you for your specific career, there is the general association of knowledge. “Wow, this looks similar to this other problem I solved before. Maybe it’s the same philosophy.”
  • It makes your brain stronger- One of my favorite posts I’ve ever seen is a calculus teacher who has his class ask him when they are going to use this in their everyday lives. He tells them never and sparks their interest by asking why they think they should care. He compares it to football. Football players lift weights, but they’re never going to have to bench press someone in a game. But lifting weights makes them stronger. That’s what education does. It’s a mental workout for your brain. (Link to post: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/135952482486633767/)
  • It helps you make connections- Welcome to history. I had this conversation with my practicum students, who are high school juniors, the other day. One student was telling me she usually gets bored in history, and I told her that it was probably because that she hasn’t had very good experiences then. Some of the other students who were listening kind of got offended at me, until I explained. History is a story, a fluid narrative, with heroes, villains, change, progress, and culture all intertwined. Honestly, no one should hate history. It’s been my experience that the history classes that aren’t liked are the ones that stress the factoids rather than the narrative or put in too much work (and yes, there is such a thing). Pretty much everyone knows that Columbus came to the New World in 1492, but do you know why Columbus sailed the ocean blue? All of a sudden, it becomes much more interesting.
  • It allows you to formulate and test hypotheses and then make conclusions- Ever heard of the Scientific Method? That’s literally what it is, and it can be applied to anything. “I think x will happen based on my research and prior knowledge. I conduct the experiment/ test. X happens, y happens, or nothing happens. Hm. What can I learn from this?” These are skills that can be applied to any discipline and career.
  • It allows you to think critically and voice substantive opinions- My freshman year of high school, the only thing we focused on in my English class was writing. As a result, I am very good at it. Since coming to college, I have written tons of papers, most of them argumentative. Thinking critically, producing evidence, and having an actual argument is crucial for just about any career in life.

Education is such an important aspect of life. And as a future educator, it is my job to equip my students for their futures, regardless of what that may be. People who are protesting today (and probably even at least some of those who aren’t) want things to change. We shouldn’t have to be pulled in every direction trying to teach the 150 kids we have. We also shouldn’t have to worry about all of these other things that interfere with our classroom.

I don’t get on a soapbox very often like this. But this is such a crucial issue in my life as well as yours (you either know children or you have them). We need to change the education system. #Red4Ed

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