There are many reasons why I wanted to launch this project. Here’s one: I think that red tape, politics, limited resources, economics, and other real-world obstacles often conspire against good teaching and learning opportunities in the school setting.
Having taught and administrated for 12 years in under-resourced schools, I understand the pressures on classroom teachers from parents, politics, and the public eye. To compound matters, children often come to school with a multitude of needs that must be addressed before learning can truly take root. There are a few duds out there, to be sure, but most folks do not choose the education profession for money, glory, or even respect. The majority with whom I have worked are genuinely busting their butts to help students achieve their potential. My frustration is certainly not aimed at public classroom teachers.
Rather, I am tired of the constant political grandstanding, implementation of misguided and inappropriate subject area standards, the crass greediness of many textbook companies, and the patronizing scrutiny of outsiders who generally mean well but have neither pedagogic training nor aptitude. Because of all these factors–and exacerbated by a curricular climate shaped in large part by No Child Left Behind–much of the living curriculum of our childrens’ daily lives has been boiled down to prosaic checklists. Teachers in the public school system are constantly pushed to teach skills rather than pupils.
Are we trying to get a particular score on a standardized test, or are we trying to nurture lifelong learners?
A case in point: I was terribly disappointed to see the boring nightmare of SCIENCE TEXTBOOKLAND as experienced by my third grader, her peers, and their teacher. I concede that there is a need to provide frameworks, standards, and supporting materials to develop consistency from classroom to classroom, and grade to grade. There are topics that must be introduced in third grade in order to build upon them in fourth. I get it. But teaching out of a textbook is a recipe for disaster–especially in primary school.
Children are naturally curious about the world, and it is a grave disservice to dampen their excitement. While I can’t overthrow the district textbook adoption overnight, I can certainly start to supplement at home. In that spirit, allow us to introduce a few Adventures Outside of Textbookland. LobeStir is an amalgam of projects and ideas designed to remind us all that LEARNING CAN BE FUN. We don’t promise to improve anyone’s grades or standardized test scores. We are simply proposing field trips, books, and activities for the evenings or the weekends that might engage a school-age child’s thirst for knowledge–and maybe your own.