My Unpopular Opinions on American Education – Not For The Faint of Heart

My Unpopular Opinions on American Education - Not For The Faint of Heart

From classroom management to what snacks should be in the lounge vending machine, teachers have a lot of opinions—and we don’t always agree. Check out these controversial opinions some teachers have but don’t always talk about. 

1. Kids don’t need themed classrooms.

Who among us hasn’t spent hours poring over Pinterest boards fantasizing about a super cute jungle-themed classroom or turning our room into an undersea adventure? There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to make your classroom look fun and inviting. But let’s be honest, an elaborately themed classroom is for the teacher’s benefit—not the students. A palm tree chore chart or superhero seat covers might be a clever way to show off your craftiness, but studies show that too much visual stimulation in the classroom can have a negative impact on student learning.

2. Enough with the motivational posters, already!

Teacher stores and educational supply websites are filled with all manner of posters designed to inspire students to be and do their best. But for real, no one’s life was ever altered by looking at a picture of a kitten seeing his reflection as a lion. If you are looking for classroom posters that truly inspire, consider demotivational posters. They aren’t likely to motivate anyone to try harder or develop a positive attitude, but they might at least inspire a little humor.  

3. We need to stop building ugly school buildings.

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Considering that our environment affects our moods, how we engage with one another, our stress level, and even how we learn, perhaps cost-effectiveness isn’t the most important factor to consider when building schools and designing classrooms where our children will spend seven hours a day. 

4. More does not always equal better. 

Whether it’s more technology, more rigor, more cooperative learning, or whatever the latest educational breakthrough is, more doesn’t necessarily better. Educating children is not a contest to see who can be the most innovative. Instead, when it comes to almost every subject and every educational trend, balance is the key—some technology/some old-school work; some rigor/some fun; some cooperative learning/some space for introverts and independent learners to do their thing. Too much of a good thing is not only ineffective, but kids see through our techniques and just start to feel handled. 

5. We are creating an over-reliance on technology.

Because of education’s “more is better” philosophy, we have created technology-rich schools often to the exclusion of some old-school skills kids still need—things like the ability to memorize, spell, do simple calculations in their heads, write legibly, and take notes by hand. Each of these skills has benefits that go beyond their day-to-day usefulness. To varying degrees, they develop attention to detail, engagement, discipline, and other good habits that make later learning and working easier. 

6. Critical thinking isn’t taught – It’s learned through playing, reading, taking on responsibilities, trying and failing.

The critical thinking craze is bull$#*+. It isn’t that we don’t want kids to be critical thinkers. It’s that critical thinking can’t be taught so much as developed. And that is much simpler than many publishers of educational materials would have us believe. So what develops critical thinking? In young children free play, music, reading (or being read to), and the chance to take on a few responsibilities are important. Providing older children and teens with ample time for reading is one of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills. They also need the chance to openly (and often with guidance) discuss important topics. They need to not be micromanaged—which sometimes means allowing them to fail. And while school can’t and shouldn’t be all fun and games, play is beneficial for teenagers as well as little ones. In other words, educators need to spend less time contriving ways to teach critical thinking and instead give students the guidance and space to develop it for themselves.

7. “Because I said so” is still a legitimate response.

Yes, we want kids to be critical thinkers. It’s also critical that sometimes they just do what we tell them without the need for explanation or justification. 

8. Schools should tell parents “no” more often. 

When this school’s sign telling parents to “turn around” if they were dropping off their son’s homework, lunch, books, or equipment was posted online, it sparked a lot of outrage (and support.) The sign also reminded parents that, in the absence of parental rescue, their kids would learn to problem-solve. Let’s have more of this, please—more student accountability, less helicopter parenting

9. We also need more parent involvement—sort of.

Do we need more parents who encourage independent reading, help their kids develop good study and homework habits, and give us wine and Amazon gift cards for Christmas? Absolutely! Do we need parents who want to micromanage their kids (and us) on a daily basis? Not so much. 

10. Keyboarding is the second most important thing we teach.

Reading is the linchpin of education, and the ability to read and comprehend affects students’ success in almost every other subject. But if we are judging the importance on frequency-of-use, then keyboarding comes in a close second because it’s something that almost all students will use daily for the rest of their lives. Let’s hear it for technology teachers! 

11. Having summers off really is a huge perk.

When people talk about how lucky we are not to work all summer, many teachers are quick to point out that we don’t actually have the summer off. While it’s true a lot of teachers work through the summer—planning, reading, attending professional development training, or working second jobs –– many of us still have a lot of time to do what we want. What other professionals get over two months (mostly) off? On the other hand, what other professionals are charged with the daily care, formation, discipline, and education of dozens of children and for shaping the future of individuals and our nation in profound ways? So, while the time off is awesome, it is also absolutely necessary. So let’s stop downplaying it and just relax—no explanations and no qualifiers necessary. 

12. We take sports way too seriously.

According to an article in The Atlantic entitled The Case Against High School Sports the U.S., unlike other countries, routinely spends more money per high school athlete than per high school math student. Not only that, the amount of time and money both elementary and high school students spend practicing, competing, and receiving private instruction is staggering If only more schools and parents cared as much about learning. Could this be one reason American students lag behind so many other developed countries academically? 

13. Kids should have three recesses a day.

That’s right—three! Students should be allowed a short recess at the beginning of the school day to get the wiggles out, another, longer recess before or after lunch, and a short break mid-afternoon. Not only would this give students much-needed play and decompression time, but it would also give teachers time to work with students who are having trouble finishing their work.

So, what about you? Do you agree with any of these controversial opinions? What controversial teacher opinions do you have?

This article was written and submitted to Bored Teachers by a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous.

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My Unpopular Opinions on American Education – Not For The Faint of Heart

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