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Where is my Voice?

Critical Analysis #1
ECI 696
Problem: Our education system is a hierarchy, but they do not listen to their most important layer.

Education is something that was once for the rich and privileged men. Then women got a chance to prove themselves by moving mountains to make larger gains then the men in their classrooms. Education was then found to be a right of everyone, yet “separate” schools were the way for many years. Today, education is about moving our youth to college and career readiness. Teachers have a blueprint laid out for them by their principals; who were given specific instructions by the district office; who go along with what the state mandates as adequate curriculum; who received their information from federal government. But, when was the last time those in the hierarchy of education were in a classroom. Felt the sting of pain when one of their students come in the morning crying because they haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday at school during lunch; or the burst of pride when a student that has struggled all year trying to master long division receives that “A” on their test. Even just the normal days in the classroom where teachers struggle to get through everything and try their best to service every student in their room so that they can reach their potential of learning. Teachers have a voice that is heard by their students, but seems to be turned off by the mute button by anyone of the hierarchy.

Education is a system of layers. Every layer has their important job and skill. But, to make a whole, layers need to work together instead of against one another. Teachers are at the bottom level of the layered system. I haven’t been teaching for many years, but I have taught in the Midwest and in Arizona; both of which hold their teachers to very high standards. This layered system comes with many faults, all of which are made in many different ways and at different levels. And with the trickledown effect, teachers are the ones that have to constantly change and justify why they do what they and how they do. Who knows students better then a teacher? Yet, we are given minimal salary, grief for having summers off and long vacations. People see us as a eight to three type of “job”. But, they do not us coming in an hour and a half early to get for the day, or get caught up on paper work. The layers don’t see us staying after school until the street lights come on; working during our “vacations” and sacrificing our personal lives for each and every one of our students so we can get them to “pass the test”. Our creative minds come up with many different ways to deliver a topic, projects to make things come alive, and strategies to make reading and math make sense. But, our voice isn’t heard.

There are so many different issues surrounding education. Time, curriculum, technology, administration, learning environments, testing, politics, the list could go on. But the in the end- you have a classroom and a teacher. Students are by far the most important part of education- they are its driving force- but the teachers come second. If everything they are preaching about and asking for is ignored; or if they are over looked time and time again- how is education going to get better? Teachers drive the future force, and yet we treat them like they are replaceable. We cut their pay, freeze their pay. They get appreciate for getting students who “exceed” on standardized test, but what about the student that jump fifty points higher but still lands in falls far below?

Our education system is a hierarchy that doesn’t listen to their most important asset. If our system took another look at the progress teachers make and listen to their reasoning’s, triumphs, and struggles; many simple questions could be answered. Teachers celebrate all growth and gain even if the data doesn’t yield in “exceeds” or “meets”; why can’t they be celebrate for everything they/we do instead of just the obvious?

Teacher Time vs. the new Common Core

Critical Analysis #2
ECI 696
Problem: There is not enough time to teach everything in the curriculum that teachers are given. How will Common Core Standards help with time issues?

Teachers look at time as a precious commodity. Through the hierarchy of the education system; jobs are given out to all by a person with greater leadership than themselves. The school year is divided into quarters and semesters to create schedules and a rate of time in which curriculum needs to be taught. Teachers are told what to teach and are given a set pace in which the curriculum needs to be taught.
The biggest difficulty for teachers is time. Society expects for our students to learn at a certain rate. Not all students learn at the same rate; so that creates a huge problem with time in the perspective of teachers. Teachers have to get students in their class to understand and develop along with the materials in the curriculum. If students are not meeting the goals of the curriculum, teachers cannot move on. The set pace of the curriculum depends on a school district’s quarterly benchmark (standardized) tests; along with state level standardized test, like AIMS. If teachers are not teaching everything in the curriculum, students will not do well on these tests. But, to teach to mastery means not moving on when students do not understand; and with so many topics that are taught throughout the day, not including lunch, recess, and specials, there is just not enough time.

Teachers are aware of these dilemmas and have combined many subjects, such as Social Studies and Reading or Science and Math. Teachers do what they need to do to adjust time constraints that limit their ability to teach everything within a district mandated curriculum.

Common Core Standards will be put into effect throughout many school districts over the next couple of years. Common Core goes a long way to layer standards so that each level builds off the other; for example: Math starts with place value, then moves on to addition, subtraction and how they are related to one another. Then it moves into multiplication and division. The difference between the new Common Core Standards and the old standards is that time in built into them. Common Core was produced so that teachers can teach to the mastery level at every grade across the nation and there will also be fewer standards to implement each year. With fewer standards and some standards being moved to other grade levels; teachers have more time to spend making sure that prior knowledge is in place and deeper levels of thinking are met. The Common Core Standards will help develop students’ knowledge not only in Reading, Math, and Writing but also in Science and Social Studies. Science and Social Studies have been woven throughout the Reading and Writing standards allowing for students to become more familiar with informational text, making connections between different types of literature, and promoting deeper understanding of mathematical reasoning.

Common Core allows for teachers to spent an adequate amount of time on curriculum topics that layer one another (Reading and Science) while focusing on students and their achievement. Common Core permits time for teachers to help their struggling students along with encouraging their high achieving students to obtain a profound understanding of subject matter. Concluding, Common Core Standards will help teachers directly with time issues within their classrooms and curriculum.

Final Project: Recess- Good, Bad?
ECI 696

Most adults would agree that their favorite time spent in school was on the playground, out in the field or in a parking lot for recess. As far back as one can remember, recess has always been a part of every child’s school day and experience.

Recess was the only part of the day where there was complete freedom and choice to do whatever you wanted. Maybe one day you wanted to play kickball with your friends and another day you wanted to sit and take in the fresh air. Either way, for those thirty minutes or so, it was your choice and you were in charge. Recess was a place where you had a chance to catch up and socialize with your friends. It was a time to leave your desk and run around and refresh your mind. It was a change in the monotonous school day, a different pace. While at recess, there was not any pressure or fear that you might get called on and not know the answer or get asked to read something you were not comfortable reading.

As for the teachers, you saw a whole different side of them. They were either fun and interactive or quiet and shy. Regardless, they were very rarely out there to yell at you or tell you what to do. The teachers seemed to enjoy the break just as much, often socializing with their colleagues and the students. When they spoke with you, it was very casual and calm. They were no longer assessing you or drilling you with questions related to science or math. They were genuinely interested in you as a person. They wanted to get to know you better and your interests. Recess positively affected both the teachers and the students, and once over, both felt recharged and ready for the next phase of the day.

So why is recess now being looked at as disposable? Schools are beginning to feel the crunch of academics, and they are just not finding any free time. Moving forward, both sides of this issue will be examined. First, the downside of recess will be explored. Could that time be used more wisely and what really goes on during recess? Then, there will be an analysis into the importance of recess, and why some feel it needs to remain a staple in all schools. These are both very crucial points that need to be discussed for the importance of both current and future children’s education. We want to be sure to do what is best for students while at the same time allowing them to be children.
As stated earlier, ever since society can remember, recess has been part of every child’s school day. No one has ever really questioned the importance or reasons as to why recess existed. Everyone simply enjoyed it. In 2002, President George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act. This required schools receiving federal funding to mandate a state-wide annual assessment to their students in the core academic areas. The results of this test determine how much improvement was made from the previous school year. Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) must be made in order for the schools to be considered “high quality.” Failure to meet AYP may result in the school being required to create an improvement plan or even worse the school may be charted off or picked up by a private company. Because the teachers, administers and schools as a whole are being held to higher standards of education, they are looking for ways to include academics in all parts of the school day. For this reason, schools are beginning to view recess as a part of the day being wasted by play.

A strong argument has risen on why recess should not be a part of the school day. This argument came to a head recently because students across the board began showing low scores on yearly standardized assessment tests. These scores deemed recess expendable and, in some peoples’ eyes, unnecessary. Administrators, educators and parents alike felt school was supposed to be a place where children went to be educated. They felt play could be done either after school or on the weekends. They argued students had a chance for movement within the classroom and during transitions such as classroom exchange and lunch. They also began to look more closely at physical education (PE) classes. Students are entitled to this class at least once a week, if not more, in most schools. If students are given the chance to run around and exercise in PE classes, then recess is just a poor use of schools’ time. Most saw no differences between recess and PE class.

The final argument schools have is recess is a time where bullying could be rampant. With such an incline in bullying awareness, schools are trying to eliminate all possible environments in which bullying can take place. Some school officials feel as though recess is the perfect outlet for bullying and children are no longer enjoying recess as they did before. Rather, recess has become a time of fear and trepidation, whereas it use to be a time of choice and freedom. Whatever the reasons schools are using to remove recess from their daily routine, the underlying factor is that schools’ test scores must improve. Because of this, they are willing to do whatever is necessary to make that happen.

On the other side of this issue are administrators, teachers, students and parents who feel recess is an essential part in each student’s school day. They argue that recess is a part of the day where learning, development of gross and fine motor skills and social skills takes place. These are all skills that must be developed in order to become an independent and competent adult. Some also believe that recess may play a big role in dialing down the number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) each year. They feel that children may be diagnosed with ADHD because they lack concentration; they fidget and are easily distracted in class. Some believe that these symptoms could be alleviated if these children were given a break in the day, a chance to get up and move. Along with this thought, teachers feel that recess is a very effective behavior management tool. When children are familiar with the daily routine and know they have a part in the day that is all theirs, they are much more susceptible to giving the teacher the attention and respect that is being asked. Furthermore, they are more likely to have a positive outlook on the topic at hand. Students also tend to have less behavior problems when a break in the day is given. Because they are not being asked to sit for hours at time, they are less likely to be disruptive in class. School officials also believe this is one of the only parts of the day where children can interact without adult interference. They can have natural conversations with each other about topics that are important to them. As for teachers, it is a chance to observe their students in a natural setting. They can assess social development through observation. During recess, teachers may be able to interact with their students in a more comfortable, non-authoritative manner. This is a chance for each to really get to know each other on a personal level. However you look at it, recess is a part of the day that children really enjoy and can call their own.

Administrators, teachers, parents and students all have a voice in this matter. There are several ways to raise awareness and advocate for recess. Those who are knowledgeable on the topic can educate their administrators, faculty and parents on the importance of keeping recess in schools. This is especially important because these are the people who have a large say in how the school is run. Teachers can implement play within their own daily routine. If the school itself is not allowing recess, a teacher can make time throughout his or her daily schedule for free time. This would be a time of day where the children get to take part in an activity of their choice. Additionally, teachers can write letters to their local and national school authorities about the importance of recess. Speaking out about the topic and raising awareness is the most effective way to advocate for students.

As I researched and reviewed both sides of this argument, I found myself understanding and truly believing in only one. Recess to me is an essential part of every child’s school day. Not only is it a part of the day where children are free of any and all academic thoughts and obligations, but it is also a time where children can truly be themselves. In an article written by David Kahan (2008), he found that boys are “more active than girls during recess-boys saw recess as an opportunity to engage in active games, while girls saw it as a time to socialize.” (p. 27) It is a time where children are free to choose what they want to do whether it is to interact with other children in an organized game or simply sit by themselves. However, those who believe it is a waste of time are not looking further into what recess is really all about. Recess is a time where children build and develop many social and physical life skills. These are skills which will be used on a daily basis throughout adult life. It is also a chance for children to discover and learn things on their own through exploration and trial and error.

Learning how to properly socialize with others can only be learned through practice and doing. What better time for a child to practice than during recess? Problems often arise between children throughout the day. If an issue arises during recess, there is not necessarily a mediator. The children must be able to properly problem solve on their own. No one is there to give them the solution. This is just one of many social skills learned while at recess. As stated by Pellegrini and Smith (1993), “Children also learn skills of presentation management (e.g., keeping status even after losing a game) and manipulation (e.g., ways of excluding unwanted children from a game). These important social strategies are certainly not taught in most classrooms.” (p. 10)
During recess children are also building and developing their gross motor skills. These skills go hand in hand with brain development. As children move they are using and building different muscles while at the same time teaching themselves a new skill. For example, when a child plays catch, they are in turn developing their hand-eye coordination. This will be useful for many things in the future, such as learning how to drive and write. Other gross motor skills such as spatial awareness and balance can be learned during a game of jump rope. These are two more skills that will be helpful in adulthood.
Recess also gives children a chance to explore the world around them. While at recess, children can explore with different materials such as jump ropes, balls, dirt, grass, kites and buckets. These materials will offer children a chance to learn. They may learn about how a kite works on a windy day, or they may learn that dirt turns to mud after it rains. These can be taught in a classroom, but children learn better and retain more information through doing and discovering it themselves.

Many have argued that recess negatively affects classroom behavior. They feel that recess is a break that interrupts the flow of the day. However, I feel recess offers a much needed break for both the teacher and the students. It gives both sides a chance to take a deep breath, relax and reflect on the day. Research was conducted to reveal the impact that recess had on classroom behavior and Jarrett, Maxwell, Dickerson, and Hoge (1998) found that “for most children, uninterrupted instructional time may be a paradoxically inefficient use of instructional time.” (p. 126)
As educators, we should know the positive implications that recess has on children. As adults, we need breaks in our day, so why are we expecting young children to sit and be engaged for an entire school day when we would never expect that of ourselves. We need to become advocates for our students and educate each other on the importance of play and what is really being taken away by removing recess from the daily schedule. I feel that this topic boils down to respect. If we expect our students to respect us and the education we are providing them, then we too need to respect them by making sure their needs are also met.

References

Harper, C. B., Symon, J. B. G., & Frea, W. D. (2008). Recess is time-in: Using peers to improve social skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(5), 815-826. doi: 10.1007/s10803-007-0449-2

Jarrett, O. S., Maxwell, D. M., Dickerson, C., & Hoge, P. (1998). Impact of recess on classroom behavior: Group effects and individual differences. The Journal of Educational Research, 92(2), 121-126. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/204198578?accountid=14578

Kahan, D. (2008). Recess, extracurricular activities, and active classrooms: Means for increasing elementary school students' physical activity. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 79(2), 26-31,39. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215762862?accountid=14578

Paciorek, K. M. (2008). Taking sides, clashing views in early childhood education. (2 ed.). New York , NY: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.

Pellegrini, A. D., & Smith, P. K. (1993). School recess: Implications for education and development. Review of Educational Research, 63(1), 51-67. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.wizard.umd.umich.edu/docview/214112923?accountid=14578

Waite-Stupiansky, S., & Findlay, M. (2001). The fourth r: Recess and its link to learning. Educational Forum, 66(1), 16-25. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.wizard.umd.umich.edu/docview/62269578?accountid=14578

West, M. (2011, September 09). Education week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/no-child-left-behind/

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