Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's the Case of "LearningCenteritis"

When I was a public school teacher, I had a conference with a parent that was "praising the Gods" about a particular learning center's approach to academics. She said that this program was the reason why her son was doing so well in math and reading and that he attended the program religiously each and every week.

After the conference, I shook my head back and forth multiple times because he was failing all of his classes. I am sure that the program has merits in whatever it is that they do well, but what boggled me was that a great deal of what he was learning did not carry over to the everyday rigor of his school work. If the program is so good, why are his grades "so bad"?

One reason why is that the program is good at what it is intended to be good at: providing a program. Many of the places that have been open for many years exist because they have a format to follow. Some of them are flexible - most of them are not. Some of them have teachers on staff - most of them may not. Regardless of what it is that you are looking for, it is rare to find the person who is at the head of the learning center an individual who understands not only the curriculum that is being taught at the schools today, but also well suited to reverse engineer a lesson that did not sink well with a student.

On a personal note, I have actually worked in these centers (on my own expense). I know what they are capable of doing - and not doing. To be quite honest with you - some of these learning centers have even approached me to help train their staff and (more comically) work with their children. I do not know if their motive is the same as mine - to make a difference in the lives of each child that you can touch, but I can certainly tell you that they do not have the same fervor for education that I do.  They went into this business to make a quick buck. It's insulting to me because nothing that you do well should ever be for money. Education  and health medicine  are fields where you do not want the person who is helping you to be the one that is doing it for the money. Trust me - I know. I have been misdiagnosed by many, many ER doctors because they are out to make a buck. I know that I was made to work with kids. Whenever I have free time and I am out in a public place, like a restaurant, or the office supply store, or the library, parents watch their kids gaze at me wondering who I am. They realize after the 4th glance that I am no ordinary stranger - I am an educator who has always had a certain magnetism when working with kids. I speak their language, know their story. I didn't need to buy into a franchise to become that because I live it every day.

The main difference between these learning centers and me is I stand behind what I do - and think about what lasting impressions my curriculum choices and methodologies are. What good is it if your student can solve complex algebra problems - but have an aversion to a word problem?  I want to develop a humble, well-rounded and highly talented individual, not a parrot.

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