Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Different Approaches to Education Than The Traditional

17 Dec

nick news

Nick News on the Nickelodeon TV network aired a segment highlighting five different schools that decided to take less traditional approaches to schooling. It was quite an interesting segment because it highlighted how innovative and liberal people have become regarding education. In this Digital Revolution, education has become less important to children, as internet teaches people things on a daily basis, and it’s clear to see that modern-day children in the USA do not value a traditional education the way other nations do. In fact, most American children do not appreciate an education until they get to high school and realize they have to take care of themselves in a few years. Unfortunately, so many American children get dumped out in the world with limited job opportunities, yes, because of the economy, but also because they lack the basic skills to pass higher education courses or to get into trading courses that require particular technical knowledge. Not to mention, they lack the focus and discipline to deal with rigorous courses. I must admit, technology makes life fast, and it can stress children out. Everything is expected to be done in a timely manner. I can’t say it’s much different on a job, but you know, I suppose people are working to try to change that, too…

Well, the unfortunate part is that children who don’t appreciate school do not really learn. They also end up very disruptive and restless. They may also suffer from self-esteem because they just can’t seem to get into school. I was that kind of child.

I don’t want to go head-to-head with parents, but a lot of it has to do with parents. It’s not that most parents don’t care, (though some don’t, I’ve met many), but most parents just can’t seem to find the time to instill an appreciation for education in their kids. Then you have parents who really don’t appreciate education themselves or have felt inferior in an educated environment. They are more than likely to be negative about school. Especially if they were not the best behaved. And these same parents also do not instill a healthy dose of respect for authority. I understand some authority can be unjust, but some authority is there to keep things orderly and safe. Imagine schools without anyone keeping the behavior in check. Fights will break out and kids will be killed. End of discussion. Of course, we have parents who don’t see that far in advance or who can’t see their child as anything but precious “angels” or “babies”. But hey, kids have their home life, and they have a social school life that parents often don’t know about the way teachers and school staff does. In fact, from experience, most children live a double life, as early as 5 years old when they begin kindergarten.

Unfortunately, a parent who doesn’t instill a proper respect for authority in their child soon finds their child rebelling against the greatest authority figure in their own lives: Their parents. And physical discipline can straighten action, but not feelings and thoughts. Children can feel like they want to rebel even if they don’t actually do it. I was that kind of child myself.

My experience? Yes, I work in the education system. I was once a poor student in elementary school, and it greatly affected me in Middle School, High School, and even College! I was able to push through, but so many in my age group dropped out. We were the “test dummy” children put under the new system “No Child Left Behind”. So many programs focused on improving test scores, but little good did it do. We all just wanted to do what we wanted to do, and felt we shouldn’t be forced to do something we weren’t ready to do. Of course, we were children, so all we wanted to do was play. We had no work ethic. Might I add, many parents today also do not instill a work ethic in their children. I used to blame the school as a child, because well, I was a child. I used my mother as a scapegoat to get me out of situations in school that I felt were too challenging. Did it benefit me? At the time, but not in the long-run. This may not go for every child, but it’s just my experience…Which wasn’t too long ago, considering I’m still in my twenties…

The education system we know today is not without flaw, either. These declining test scores reveal serious problems in the established education system that aren’t all direct. There are teachers who seriously do not have the patience to truly deal with children. If you are a parent, imagine having thirty kids in your home for 6 to 8 hours a day…A whole work day…Some parents can barely deal with two to four children that long. That’s what teaching is like. Some teachers get so overwhelmed with their jobs, they want to give up and don’t give the students the proper attention they need. Some teachers get into the profession thinking it will be ideal and thinking it will be easy to deal with children. After all, they are just children, right? Right? Treat them with respect and they will love and respect you? Wrong. Children often don’t respect you just because they don’t want to. They sometimes think it’s funnier to tease the butt monkey, i.e. the teacher. Many times when you start off nice, it’s hard to be firm when you have to be, especially when they child is not used to being disciplined at home. And then there are teachers who let children provoke them, because they haven’t quite matured, and end up over-doing things…

In the high school, you have teachers who just don’t know their place…

With all of these issues, there could be several reasons why children are not performing in school, which are the basis for the founding of “new schools” mentioned in this news segment:

1) Children feel overloaded with work.

2) Schools have pushed on higher levels of stress upon modern children.

3) Some children are bullied, or fear being bullied, and can’t function in a hostile environment.

4) They are not challenged enough and are too advanced for the curriculum.

5) They can’t handle being told what to do.

6) The material is not presented to them in a way that is interesting and fun.

7) Parents have turned them off from liking school.

8) The teachers were too strict or impatient and not attentive to each child’s needs.

10) They may have a disability or another set-back and need extra help.

11) Parent did not instill discipline in a child so that they could endure long hour days and focus.

12) Children may not get any help for the problems they do not understand, not from teachers or parents.

13) No one at home or school cares about their successes or failures, and therefore, they have no real motivation for achieving aside from the fact it could give them a good job in the future…If they really care to think that far in advance. I think this is so sad, but is a true reality that I’ve seen. ūüė¶

14) They live privileged lives and can’t see a future where they are not reliant on their parents. This can turn into a “Peter Pan” syndrome.

15) Awards are not earned. Children are either awarded during Christmas and birthdays, without having to behave, so they don’t see the importance of good behavior, or they are not particularly awarded when they do good in school, and are only awarded when they cry. Or not given any awards or attention at all. This often happens in families with many children.

16) Older children feel they already know what they want to do in the future and don’t see the need to learn various subjects they’re not interested in.

17)  Parents may not stick the children to a schedule in the home. Bedtimes are not enforced, so children are not getting enough sleep.

18) There are other severe issues with the home life, such as poverty or abuse.

These are several issues I’ve experienced, but this may not even reveal ALL of the issues!

Now, back to the topic. The schools mentioned in this segment all seek to improve the above issues. Many of the schools seek to place children in environments deemed more “comfortable” for children. Many of the ideas of these schools are truly innovative, and I think should be implemented in all schools. But many of the ideas…don’t strike me as practical for the real world. I don’t want to bash a school’s head in. I encourage all education. Perhaps I will seem a little bias, though it won’t be intended. Still, I am entitled to have certain questions and comments when I feel that something is not considered in the grand scheme of things. This may spark a debate, but I’m no stranger to controversial subjects. I welcome all comments, even if I don’t agree with them.

Quest to Learn

Quest to learn

This school uses games to teach children. They are constantly using cards, computers, and other game tools to learn subjects. Some of the kids commented that they often “move so fast, they don’t realize they have learned something, but then later, they recall it all”. This school believes that children learn best when they are active and involved. They seek to make school fun and action-packed. They mentally challenge students to think on their toes.

One student comments:¬†“I was really zoned out. I was like reading comics in class,” he says. “But now I’m not even considering touching a comic book because I’m so scared that I’m going to miss a subject.”

It seems like the goal is to get children so busy and mobile, they don’t have time to be distracted.

I like the idea that this school uses games and other tools to motivate students, though most schools have this included in their teaching strategies, but just not so extreme. This school seems well-suited to children who catch on to things quickly. It’s also suited to children who thrive well in a competitive environment and enjoy movement.

As a child, I was not that kind of little person. I’m sure there are other children who would feel nervous in this kind of environment. It struck a nerve when the child commented that “He’s so scared he’s going to miss a subject”. I’m not a firm believer in scaring a child. I think fear intensifies stress.

As a child, I needed a versatile environment that considered my needs. Established public schools have all kinds of teaching strategies for every kind of child. This school only provides the strategies that could appeal to a child that doesn’t feel challenged enough.

But hey, there is every kind of school for every kind of child. The only down-side is when these children move on to higher education, they may be so used to a fast-paced environment, they may be frustrated with how slow-paced college courses are. In college, there are no games, there are no quick lessons. These children may ultimately end up impatient with college, and may end up dropping out for quick employment.

Children who learn to get things quick are quick about getting things done. Learning to move quickly may not be bad when it comes to meeting deadlines and challenges on a job, but sometimes these actions can lead to impulsive decisions when choosing careers.

Trek North

Trek North

This school takes it’s students on wilderness trips to teach outdoor skills. It’s a bit like Boys and Girls Scouts. They take service trips, and often they take these week-long trips to help the homeless. ¬†A student can get a high school diploma from this school just from completing tasks. This school seems designed to give children a hands-on approach to learning, which teaches skills that are beyond the range of modern society. These children learn survival skills, which can be useful if the whole system crashes.

This school seems like a lot of fun. This is a school I would’ve loved attending as a child, as I always appreciated the wilderness and volunteer work.

The only issue is that it doesn’t teach children various skills that can assist them in a modern, progressive society. It doesn’t help them properly compete in a GLOBAL economy. Getting a piece of paper is not as important as what you learned to get it. I think this school would be great if implemented as a mandatory after school program. But the main education? I think this leaves a child handicapped in the job force. They also won’t have many options with the skills they learn. Their experience may bring them to jobs that deal with the wilderness or some volunteer work, but if they decide they change their minds, they may not have any OTHER basic skills that could transfer them into another career. We learn various subjects to give our children various options in the world. We don’t want our children limited to one career field when there is much to learn in this world!

Durango Big Picture High School

Durango

I absolutely love this school’s ideas. One student said:¬† “I wanted to come here because I didn’t like sitting in the classroom listening to a lecture all day,” she says. “(Here) you’re creating a future that you want.”

This school may be just the ticket to help children appreciate school. I believe that children learn better when they understand that their education will benefit them and help them get jobs. In fact, I wish there was an elementary school like this. I wish I had enrolled in a school like this. The reason many of these children don’t appreciate school is because they don’t realize or don’t feel an education will help them get jobs in the future. It’s sad, but I’ve run into children who don’t see the benefit in learning how to even spell their name. But if someone emphasized how important this was in the world, it would motivate the children to do it. An internship, where a child experiences the working world first-hand, is just the ticket.

My only qualm is that it doesn’t consider the indecision of teens. I wanted to be a journalist as a teenager, and even did a program to help assist me. Of course, I changed my mind. But I had strengths in other subjects besides English (History), so I was able to transition into another career. Again, when a student doesn’t learn various skills, they limit themselves. A child may get work that fits their skills, but technology is taking over at a rapid pace, the business they are working in may close, and they will be forced to return to basics to learn a whole new set of skills!

Children need variety. I think this school lets children make decisions they are not half way mature enough to make yet. Heck, I know more than 20 of my friends who went to college “Undecided”, and a dozen of them who have changed majors about three times…And they were all adults! But at least they had basic skills in other areas to make that transition. It’s especially important to have reading and math as mandatory subjects, even if a kid thinks only one of those subjects are important, even if she says she only wants to be a book author. I mean, how is she going to count her money without knowing the value of a dollar?

Aside from all of that, a student can come out of this school working. They can adjust to a work environment easier. They can use that money from their job to pay for a higher education. It’s really a well-developed school with minor kinks.

Connections Academy

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A student said, “I learned that actually not having a lot of kids around me makes me thrive,” she says. “Now that all the distractions are removed, I’m a lot more focused.”

When I think of the future, I always think of online education. This is an online school. This is the modern home-schooling world. The goal of this school is to remove children out of distracting, and even hostile, environments.

My first taste of online classes was in college. In college, you had the option to work in a quiet environment and work at your own pace. It was a new thing for me and my family.

What I hated about it was the deadlines. You couldn’t get an extension or extra time unless you informed the teacher way ahead of time. Computers are impersonal, despite what anyone says. It’s often hard to get the help you need. In order to get help, you can chat with your teacher online, BUT it’s sometimes hard to tell them exactly what your issues are because they are not sitting next to you or watching to see if you’re doing everything correctly. When they correct your work, they correct it, and then forward it with instructions on how improve the assignment. But they never give that personal one-on-one attention. If you are a student that catches on to subjects quickly, online school is the school for you. But for me, it’s the reason I almost failed Chemistry.

You also need a lot of focus. Sometimes, computers can be distracting. Even when I was doing my Microsoft Word paper on the computer, I was distracted by Social networking, so it took longer to finish my assignments, and I was sloppy in my work in a rush to finish.

Home-schooling like this can help a child become a computer expert, as all of their work is done on the internet. The problem happens when a school is only online. Computers do break, and internet does go out. Some home-school programs offer books on the side and allow you to send the work by mail to a school. This home-school program is all-internet.

The other problem is that this schooling doesn’t put a child in social situations, therefore social problem-solving skills will not develop. When they do grow up, they will be weaker to peer pressure and will have a harder time deciphering the right healthy association, unless the parents warn children of this early on. Further, they will be more sensitive to insults and criticism, things they may not experience at home. If they experience it early on, believe it or not, they will expect it on the job and find ways to deal with it. Home shelters them.

They may also develop a mind-set where they expect the working environment to be “like home”. They may be disappointed that the world is not like home.¬†On the plus side, if they become entrepreneurs, they may create a more comfortable working environment for people. Most children who have this schooling are some of the most well-behaved children because they don’t have the social pressure to be bad. Their only influences are their parents. On the same token, if they are only used to listening to their parents, they won’t get accustomed to listening to new ideas that may be more beneficial than what their parents are teaching them. These children carry the risk of not being able to think entirely for themselves. And it’s important for children to develop some individuality and independence from their parents.

And again, while they are in school, they are usually not influenced by peer pressure. But when they graduate, step out into the working world, ¬†they will not be used to peer pressure. They won’t be able to avoid peer pressure. We learn how to deal with this pressure in school, especially in high school. Though home-schooling is meant to protect the child from peer pressure, it doesn’t help them learn to deal with this pressure. And no, bullying and negative peer pressure is not good. I understand that some parents would rather protect their children. In schools outside of the home, not only do children make friends, but they learn to deal with peers. Traditional schools don’t just teach reading and math, but the purpose of a school is to teach you how to deal with other people. In the real working world, they will end up experiencing people they don’t get along with, questionable friendships, and bullies. Daddy and Mommy will not be around to tell them to quit a job and home-job them. Some may work from home, but most will end up working outside of the home. How will they deal with this issue? Will they quit every job they feel is hard, which is every job? Will they let people get under their skin?

These children can become more impressionable¬†than the average person when they become adults. This is not to say this is every child who is home-schooled, but from my experience, it’s a risk. Justin Bieber would be an example.

The upside is that when a child is alone with their work, they have the ability to develop all kinds of skills. When there are no distractions, a strong curiosity can develop. From my experience, home-schooled children acquire skills that most children learn when they are older, like the ability to sew. Many develop talents. They often learn to become excellent cooks and often eat healthy diets. They stay children much longer. They are least likely to be pregnant teens and will more than likely plan their lives.

Yet, the strong curiosity can lead them into danger as they get older. They may wish to do all the things they missed out on,and they may live wild lives in an attempt to do all they missed out on.

Diablo Valley School

Diablo

This school doesn’t have a curriculum, doesn’t give homework, tests, or grades. When we think about this ideally, we can see that this school has good intentions. They want children to be comfortable in their learning environment. The school setting is more like a house, where there are couches and the staff cooks lunch for the kids. They allow children to attend board meetings, voice an opinion, vote, and help with school-wide decisions. This school’s goal is to encourage children to be confident in themselves. This school wants children to develop their own identity, and be proud of who they are. It’s a school that wants children to recognize that everyone has individual strengths, and it minimizes the idea that any child has a weakness. The goal is truly ideal.

One student said, “I’ve become a lot more confident with myself,” she says. “And I think the best thing about this school is that there is no pressure to be anyone other than yourself.”

Many of their ideas are so out-of-the-box in both excellent ways and debatable ways. I like that they let the children have a voice on what goes on in the school, and I like that they let those children take leadership roles. This helps them move their school and learn the importance of responsibility. This school is great for students who don’t feel confident in a regular school. This is also a good school for students who need a little more intimate attention from their teacher. This is also good for students who want to have fun. The children did seem happy in the segment. What child would not want to go to a school like this? This is a school where kids rule. To add, the food probably tastes better than the food at any school around the nation…

But there are a few things that I think was not considered in the greater scheme of things.

This school seeks to “protect” or “nurture” children by giving children what they emotionally need and want, but it doesn’t prepare them for the harsh realities of the real working world.

This school allows children to begin learning basic skills such as reading and writing…whenever the child feels like learning it. Yes, they decide what they want to learn and when they want to learn it. They feel this helps the children develop a natural interest in subjects. If a child wants to learn something, they ask, and the staff there helps them learn it. And it doesn’t have to be basic skills, like reading or math. It can be something like sewing. I understand this school was designed to make children feel more confident in what they are learning.

But I feel this school treats the children like babies. While the school provides a comfortable learning environment, it doesn’t teach them how to adjust to working environments that are not ideal when they get older. In traditional education, at least a child learns to adapt to various working styles. This actually teaches them how to endure in many different kinds of jobs. It gives them the discipline to deal with the working world. When a child becomes use to this environment, a real job becomes a cinch. They learn that each job has it’s own rules and it’s own code of dress and many other similarities to their school.

A comfortable environment makes the children feel at home, but gives them unrealistic expectations about the job life. These children will grow up with the attitude that on a job “They will work when they are good and ready”. They will not know how to do something they don’t want to do. But guess what? No one wants to work, but we have to. Otherwise, who will eat?

Sometimes, it may ultimately make them less confident as adults as they begin to compare how much they know with the other adults around them who have learned so much. Some children may not even acquire the curiosity to read until they are teenagers. By then, many teenagers their age would’ve learned so much more, even the students that are considered “struggling” in traditional schools! I asked one child, who was struggling in 5th grade, to spell her name out for me as fast as she could. She spelled it so fast, you can tell that she had written that name a thousand times. She knew it by heart, even though she was struggling with her school subjects. I told her that’s how I knew she was in 5th grade. I could tell that she had spent five years practicing that name. A student who decides when they are going to learn this in teen years will be way behind…

Children with mental disabilities often never acquire an interest in learning because of their set-backs, so this school would leave them empty-handed. I’ve had to push (not shove, of course) many students with disabilities to learn subjects. They may not have liked it as children, but when they get older, they often felt confident. When they are not pushed, they don’t learn, and are left to feel odd or as mentally disabled as people make them feel when they become adults.

Also in a subject like history, this school will put the kids behind. There are certain things children should know about history by the time they are in 8th grade. We learn history so we can avoid making the same social mistakes and so we can borrow inspiration to create a more progressive future. That’s how we were able to make many of the inventions we have today, on the basis of what people did. Most children do not acquire a natural curiosity to learn history. I know this from experience.

Instead of helping them compete with a global economy, this school will still put them behind. This school stated they are focused on improving test scores in the nation, but without…testing the children. It¬†sounds like they are only about the numbers, not the education. Or rather, they seem to be all about the numbers they decide to put in. But without a curriculum guide, they don’t really seem to care if the child can truly compete with other children globally on an intellectual level. The students may not feel these debilities as children or teens, but they will feel it as adults.

The school¬†also doesn’t prepare the students for a higher education. In college, while they do get to choose the subjects they want to study, and what time they want to take the courses, they have to sit for long hours in lecture halls, complete homework assignments, and deal with stressful exams. How does this school prepare them for a higher education should a child want to pursue that path? This school, in my honest opinion, is for the pampered and babied. In fact, without a test, how could they monitor a child’s progress or really know whether they have learned something in the school? How can they know if a child has even learned to count? By letting the child monitor their OWN progress? Children just want to play, and may say anything just to get work out of their hair.

The upside to this kind of schooling is that¬†these children may grow up remembering that they don’t have to work at something they don’t like. That’s the privilege of living in the USA. This may thus help them push for more creative freedom in a work environment. But making that kind of difference takes time. And they still need to learn to work at a stable job. But then there are those moments where the lack of various skills limits them to odd-end jobs…

What really disturbs me is the fact that none of the “teachers” are required to be certified. The children learn from random people who share their “experiences”. Again, this is ideal, but not at all realistic. The school seems to be lacking in a little historical education themselves, and are doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past. In the past, teachers were not required to have any more than a 8th grade education. Soon after, women were usually married off and men began working. But how could a student be confident in a teacher they are not sure has been to school or learned anything themselves? Would you want a certified Doctor operating on you or your family? Or some random person who came into the hospital saying they know a little bit about medicine? I know a college degree doesn’t make a person smarter than someone without one, but at least you know they have acquired the knowledge to attend to the job at hand. The certificate is confirmation that it has been a field of study for 4 or more years. When someone is not certified, you can’t really know if you are being taught lies or not. You may not know with a certified teacher either, but at least you know they have studied the facts before.

Then, there are things personal experience cannot teach you. There are some subjects that can’t be understood in-depth without consistency and an expert. For instance, there are hundreds of countries around the world. It is not only beneficial to talk about the country the child lives in, but also about other countries. This not only broadens their world view, increases compassion in a child, but it also teaches them to think about someone other than themselves. A random teacher can’t teach a child about correct geography or how to read a map correctly. These “teachers” are also probably not equipped to deal with mentally disabled people, either. I mean, the school isn’t bad, but is it really on the same quality-level as a traditional school? Or should I think it’s better just because it’s free and new?

The school would then have to place value on what THEY deem is more important to learn, which means they would be belittling the subjects they feel are not so important. I’d like to think that each subject has a use. If we belittle a subject, we belittle a job and therefore limit what our children could do in the future.

So, this is my spin on the “new school” education. Share your comments on the matter. Do you think the schools have the right answer to combat declining test scores in the USA?

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