I sat on my couch, reading the words of my email as if they were a foreign language I had no knowledge of. My thoughts flowed like lava from confusion to a sense of anger. Then I questioned, at what point do educators' and parents alike, discontinue the idea that meeting a bar is good enough and more shouldn't be considered?
Specifically speaking, my son received a B on his report card. This B, in a subject that he knows all too well, stuck out like sore thumb. Primarily, I had already been in contact with his teachers about how to help him when progress reports were returned, and his grade was a 65. I was told not to worry and that the assessment was believed to have been too hard. I reiterated that not worrying was not an option, and that I needed things to support my son's growth. One would assume, especially since I am an educator myself, that this type of support is welcomed and encouraged. Unfortunately, it was not. Not only did I hear nothing more after this point, but the next communication I received was equally as inflaming as the brushed off response, which never came.
Upon questioning my son's grades and the lack of student work with feedback, I was given the kiss of death statement. His teacher's words cut me like a knife because I had hoped the days of such nonchalant idealism was gone. His teacher said, he earned a B, isn't that good enough?
Fast forward some to my working life. As an educator, you hear many, many different opinions about what is and is not necessary. Parents often question the need for Advanced Placement classes. Those questions are heightened when the AP class is a humanities course like Geography or English. Essentially, too many people still place a hierarchy on core subjects, which relegates STEM type fields far above their Liberal Arts counter parts. This is a dangerous notion on so many levels. Still, and quite honestly the most important level, if a child can benefit from a class, that child should take said class, period. How exactly is pushing a student to be all that they can be, and lifting that bar each time, a bad thing? Why is mediocre the norm? And when did this elitist mentality for education take hold?
Educators aren't immune from elitism either. Too often I hear colleagues vent that a student should earn the right to a Pre AP or AP course. Really? And who will be the judge of earned merit? What will be the standards earning this merit? You see, the trouble with education is that we sometimes forget that our job is preparation! Einstein remarked, "...if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."
To that I say, bravo! Education is not one size fits all. A "B" is not good enough for everyone. Rigor, despite the course that uses it, has been shown to give students an advantage over their peers who did not take a rigorous course. And most importantly, stop using this elitist mentality to relegate children to specific paths. In case anyone forget, public education is free and guaranteed. Thus, no one should have to earn the right to be better! How about we spend time focusing on arming students- and their parents- with tools to be successful and competitive; in lieu of determining the worth and ability of that kid, based on current struggles. It seems to me, the smarter choice is to best prepare and accommodate the needs of children today because they will lead us when we can no longer make judgments for them!
Good is a starting point for great! If we all kept that idea in mind, our education system would exponentially improve. Children deserve a partnership between the system and its families. It is high time we put our kids first and remove barriers to collaboration in learning.