NOT Rocket Science

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Trust me, you can relax because, as the title indicates, I am NOT about to discuss the trajectory of a spaceship.  Nor will I be writing an epistle on the various applications of Einstein’s equations.

Did I just sense a collective sigh of relief?

However, I am going to share three experiences that I believe perfectly illustrate some glaring deficiencies in the knowledge base of some of our young people.

Now, before I start, let me clarify that this post is not meant to place all blame on teachers and in the interest of self -disclosure, let me admit that each of my paternal aunts were educators.

Back to my point.

I honestly think that weaknesses in our children’s educational backgrounds are due to several negative social, political and economic factors that have converged to formulate a clusterf*ck of sorts.

Uhh, enough with the pontification! Read these experiences so you’ll understand what I mean:

Experience 1

Several months ago, my friend, who taught Advanced Spanish at a local high school, was testing her students on the subject of ‘Time.’  During the test, she moved the hands on a clock to indicate various times of day. She then asked the students to write, in Spanish, the time that was displayed. Seventeen of the twenty students failed the test.

But not for the reason that you are thinking.

The fact of the matter is that seventeen students failed the test because they had no idea how to tell time on a non-digital clock. The Principal made my friend re-administer the test using images from a digital clock.  Needless to say, the pass rate greatly improved.

Unfortunately, the Principal NEVER even acknowledged the fact that the students could only tell time on a digital clock.

Now my question to you is twofold:  What time is it and does anybody really know what time it is?

You’ll have to forgive me for throwing in two musical references but it’s what I do 🙂

Experience 2

I went to Arby’s on yesterday to grab some dinner for me and my daughter.  The total cost of our food was $11.31.  I did not want to use my debit or credit cards so I handed the cashier five ones and a five dollar bill.  After that, I handed her four quarters.  Finally, I handed her an additional quarter, one nickel and a penny.  Y’all that’s $11.31 all day long!

Clearly, I was trying to get rid of some change.

Anyway, after the cashier disappeared from the drive-thru window, I heard what sounded like a whole lot of change being feverishly moved around.  Honestly, it sounded like a rat had gotten into the cash drawer.

Before long, and to my surprise, the young cashier returned to the window and handed me several coins-along with a receipt.  I immediately said, “Oh you don’t owe me any money, I gave you the exact amount, the total was $11.31 –correct?”

She said, “No m’am it was $11.40.”  She then handed me my food.

Well, I smiled politely and drove off–still feeling a bit confused.  I mean if the total due was $11.40 then she certainly didn’t owe me any change, in fact, I owed her.

Ok, now I’m befuddled as hell!  So when I got home, I checked the receipt.  Guess what? the total was, indeed, $11.31 but the amount tendered was entered as  $11.40 so the change shown was $0.09.

Our dear cashier thought that a quarter, a nickel and a penny was $0.40.

Y’all it ain’t no cash register or computer in the world that could have helped this poor baby.  Honestly, I felt so sorry for her.

Experience 3

In the words of my wise cousin Ron, there is no need to split a hair that doesn’t need to be split.

Now watch me split this one anyway 😉

OK, so recently I went to the deli at Publix  to get 3 pounds of smoked turkey.  The young man working the counter was quite nice; we had a lovely little chat while he sliced my turkey.  Just as he was finishing up, he said, “Ma’am, this is gon’ be too much meat to put in one bag so Imma need to split it up.”

I said, “OK, that’ll be perfect.”

The young man then proceeded to divide the meat into 3 portions; placing each portion into 3 separate bags.  He then went on to say, “Ok here go your first half, here go your second half and here go your third half.”

Y’all, somehow that just didn’t sound right to me.  LOL!

Alright, I realize that many of you probably laughed at a couple of these ‘experiences.’  But, seriously, if you are a parent, grandparent or if you have a direct vested interest in a child’s education, you might want to pay closer attention to what is going on at the schoolhouse.

Remember, the students of today will be the doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, police officers, paramedics, engineers, air traffic control/pilots, truck drivers and politicians of tomorrow.

Don’t you want them to be well prepared?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I chose Montessori

In the late 1990’s, I was a graduate student and single mother of a preschool aged son.  Like most mothers, I promised myself that I would do all that I could to provide my child with a lifestyle where he felt loved, encouraged and equipped to reach his highest potentials. In order to keep this promise, I decided that I had to make his education a top priority.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that most mothers count their children’s education as a major concern.  However, as a black mother, I also knew that the stakes were extremely high for black children; and even more so for black boys.  During my graduate studies, I couldn’t help noticing a couple of research studies that seemed to indicate that young black boys were often inappropriately placed in special education courses or misdiagnosed with any number of behavioral conditions.  In my mind, this did not bode well for my son’s wellbeing; not to mention his educational outlook. Hence, this was an urgent matter.

Nevertheless, with my son’s 4th birthday approaching, I began researching local learning centers in hopes of finding a good preschool program. I spent several weeks observing primary classes at various schools.  Suffice it to say I was not impressed by what I had observed.  In fact, I was completely turned off during one specific school visit when a preschool teacher told me that “kids just wanna learn their numbers, colors and letters.” To make matters worse, she went on to say that most kids are simply not interested in learning much more than the basics.  Needless to say, my eyes completely glossed over and I politely, yet abruptly, ended that conversation.  After taking immediate leave of that insanity and regaining my composure, it occurred to me that most of the schools that I had visited seemed to share the belief that younger children should spend time playing, rather than engaging in robust learning activities. To be honest, at that point, I was beginning to feel a bit dejected.  I worried that I might not find the educational setting that I had hoped for.  I wondered what to do about my son who, at age 3, had already met the “numbers, colors, letters” milestone and was, by this time, reading, adding and creating rather sophisticated Lego superheroes to boot. Was I supposed to allow my child to settle for a subpar early learning experience? Were my expectations too high?

After spending a few weeks feverishly seeking but not finding, I ran into a former co-worker and friend whom I had not seen in quite some time.  Naturally, we began to play “catch up” and I mentioned that my son would soon be starting school.  I also mentioned my dissatisfaction with the schools that I had visited thus far.  After patiently listening to my gripe fest, my friend encouraged me to check into the local Montessori school where her daughter was in attendance.  Montessori? What? Do black people even go to Montessori schools? My curiosity was immediately peaked!  I asked and she answered about a hundred rapid fire questions about the educational philosophy as well as the social and learning environment. At the end of the conversation, she assured me that the school strongly encouraged diversity and that we would feel very welcome.

The next day, I contacted the school and within a few days my son was scheduled to attend a class on a trial basis; I was invited to observe. After the observation, I was brimming with excitement!  I was intrigued by the practical, hands-on learning techniques.  I also loved the fact that the students were encouraged to think independently, work cooperatively, and to respect each other as well as their larger environment.  I also liked the practical nature of the learning activities.  I was thrilled to see 3, 4 and 5 year olds happily and successfully engaging in activities like identifying parts of the human anatomy and locating world continents!  But, above all else, I loved the fact that my son was genuinely happy with the Montessori experience.  After we left the school that day he told me that he couldn’t wait to go back.

This Montessori school seemed to be the answer!  So what about cost?  Naturally, I had to seriously contemplate the price tag.  Granted, this was a private school, but after doing the math, I determined that the tuition was not much more than the cost of a “good” local daycare.  And with that, I began the application process.  Within a month he was enrolled in primary class and ultimately completed each grade level though grade 7.  It is important to note that at that time, our local Montessori schools did not extend beyond grade 8. As a result, my son ended up graduating from a traditional college preparatory high school.

All in all, I cannot stress how happy I am with our Montessori experience! In later years, I enrolled my daughter in the same Montessori school that my son attended.  She is currently a 4th year student in upper elementary. I love to tell people that I am the proud mother of two “Montessorians” and to answer my previous question; yes, black people do go to Montessori schools!

Today, I am proud to report that my son is doing well and is a Biology Major at Emory University.

I would love to hear your thoughts on education in general and Montessori or other alternative education philosophies in specific.

Gwin