I hate my job.
It’s not about the students. It’s not about my co-teachers. It’s about the system.
Every day I spend in the classroom the more convinced I become that education as a system is failing all of us. Yes, all of us, Korea didn’t just pick this system from a range of options. I am convinced every education system the world over is dedicated to teaching test taking. The only difference in Korea, is that they acknowledge this as the goal and thus work very hard to be the best test takers to ever enter university. I have students who out test their American counterparts with hardly any trouble, but ask them for an opinion and even the spunkiest 15 year-old falls silent.
It seems impossible for most of my students to think. To be creative. To be something other than brilliant test takers. And even though, I run into this wall every single day. I can’t blame my students. Despite their whining, cajoling and begging. I blame education.
It’s hardly their fault that we have let them down. I don’t think anyone has truly made test taking a valuable life skill. So congratulations, world, we’ve spent so much time worrying about developing tests and taking tests as the only way to measure our successes that we’ve forgotten to teach children how to think, create and dream.
Learning doesn’t happen in this environment. Learning happens in the moments where my students are finally able to take a break from all the testing and discuss something. One of my greatest moments this week centered around a student asking how to read dates. That’s right. The best I can hope for most days is getting a response other than “so-so” when I ask my students “How are you?” In this moment, when asked to explain dates, I realized that at least one of my 50 or so students is interested in learning to speak English.
Most of my students are smart enough to realize that the education they are receiving is part of a system that just needs to be played. How else do you explain students who can hardly speak their “second language” yet consistently test at an A level. Oh that’s right, most testing only takes into account reading and listening comprehension. Having a speaking or writing version is “too hard” to grade. But I question when has testing ever accurately measured understanding?
Perhaps as a recent college grad myself with some $30,000 in debt, I’m just feeling angry towards education. But I don’t think that’s it. I have had incredible teachers. I have had terrible teachers. But the line “Get a good education, get a good job, live a good life” is simply untrue. You don’t have to have a degree to get a good job. Ava is doing what I went to school for and she doesn’t have a degree. I have a degree. And my job requires a degree. My degree also left me completely unprepared to do what I am asked to do each day. I count on my experiences as editor-in-chief and a film producer more than any classroom time to get by each day. Education as a system failed me.
And watching the system fail my students each day is exhausting.
Parents eagerly put their children in the “best” schools, hoping for the “right” education to give their children a “good” job. A parents’ hope for a better life for their children should not be entrusted to such an obviously broken system. Yet all we do is continue to test and test and test.
Let’s put the testing on pause. Let’s talk about education. What exactly is the purpose of a formalized educational system? If the vaunted goal is to give people skills needed for better jobs, than what can we do to ensure those jobs exist? If the goal is to live a good life, what can we do to ensure children become capable adults who will make the best choices for themselves and those around them?
Think about it.