Mediocre Baby Sitters!?

Recently, the following question was asked as a lead-in for my last post:

“The inventor of the multiple choice test admitted he was wrong. Why do we still use his test a century later?”

Admittedly, this question was intended only to direct viewers and followers to my post. I was saddened by the reply that I received:

“So that every once in a while a teacher can breathe :)”

Behind that smiley face emoticon is a sad truth. Our teachers are no longer honored for their creativity and innovation. Honestly, they’re no longer honored at all. This unfortunate truth has led to a watered down education system where the best and most talented teachers/educators no longer want to be in the classroom.

When the merit of a teacher is based almost exclusively on standardized test scores, we as a society have failed our teachers. We have taken the tools out of their hands and replaced them with sometimes unrealistic mandates. We have left our teachers success and/or failure to chance that they may have a group of kids come along that will test well… or not.

A teacher now has one job: teach students to pass a standardized State required test or else. Teach to the test, and while you’re at it, breeze by a little “curriculum.” Don’t worry about the children’s strengths and where they will find success, drill down on their weakness and force feed them possible answers to a test.

Maybe the last paragraph is a little harsh, but I know from talking to many teachers, long before I was ever in education, that this is how a large majority of our teachers feel. They believe many children are getting left behind as we guide our youth down a path of mediocrity.

Unfortunately, this mediocrity is now what we’re getting out of many of our educators. The sad truth is this, so long as a teacher does just good enough to have their contract renewed, they get to continue half-heartedly teaching the future leadership of our communities. Have a problem with our current economic crisis and political unease? Unless we demand education reform, the future doesn’t look too bright either.

Personally, I’m very fortunate to be a part of an organization that has a bigger vision than this. When leadership and innovation are infused with passion, there are no limits as to the future we can provide our students. It is important that we understand that our children that are now infants or just beginning their primary school years will be led and affected by the decisions of those who are now entering our communities as “productive citizens.” Our grandchildren will, in turn, be influenced by today’s High School students.

It is time we demanded more of our education system. It is time that we allowed creativity and innovation back in the classroom. We must focus on the strengths of our children and guide them to be sound decision makers. We need artists, and musicians, and scholars. We need mechanics, and plumbers, and trades people. We need CEOs, and business owners, and politicians with high character, integrity, and passion. We will fail our children when we fail to honor and respect our teachers enough to foster our future.

It is unfair and unrealistic to believe that all students are equal in their abilities to pass all portions of a test. Multiple choice is nothing more than multiple guess! Our teachers are on the front lines to recognize the great qualities of our children that will shape our future. Isn’t it time we empowered them to create a learning environment that is diverse and pioneering. We first must respect our teachers as more than glorified, cheap, babysitters.

Are you willing to accept a call to action and demand better of our education system? Do you agree that we should regard our teachers at a much higher distinction, and yet expect more than mediocrity?

Average is today’s excellence. Is this what you want for your student? Average?

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Condemned

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This quote by George Santayana has been paraphrased for the last hundred-plus years since first appearing in The Life of Reason, Volume I.

There is one fundamental problem with Mr. Santayana’s quote, or more accurately, the misuse of the quote for the last century. Unfortunately, so many have taken it so literally that, though our society has progressed and evolved into a global network, our education has not. This is largely based on how we teach not just “the past,” but in general.

As human beings, we do what we know. For many years, we have been taught to memorize in school. We have been forced to retain facts in order to regurgitate those details with standardized testing. Many generations of children have sat in perfect rows learning how to memorize and shut out any creativity or innovation. Sure, we teach them when a war started, or what year an economic crisis began, but we don’t teach them how to communicate or think critically about how to solve conflicts and economic crisis.

What are our children truly retaining? How are their strengths and talents being developed?

Santayana also said, “and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.”

Let me remind you, savages invented the wheel and created fire. However, let’s focus on the experience our future leaders are gaining in our education system. Too much emphasis is placed on test scores, and not enough focus in placed on allowing our children to identify, or be identified, as productive and innovative citizens of our communities (local and global).

We have allowed ourselves to become stuck in a rut that we began digging a century ago. Even the man who invented the multiple choice test, Professor Frederick J. Kelly, admitted that he made a mistake.

It’s time that we demanded better of our education system. It’s time to begin building leaders and teaching our children to use critical thinking and problem solving. Memorization has its place, and it is not my intention to make light of its importance. However, as I said, as human beings, we do what we know. And, if all we know are facts and dates, we are sure to repeat those very facts. We are, indeed, condemned to repeat them.

What is the future you want for your children? Do you believe they deserve more?

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Are you serious!?

Admit it; you are in the middle of an identity crisis. I know I am. Sadly, I’ve grown so accustomed to my “typically stated” identity that I sometimes forget who I truly am. Oh, sure, you’re the same way.

Let’s try a little exercise:

Imagine that you and I are meeting for the first time. The typical greeting is exchanged and what’s the first question that will be asked?

“So, what do you do?” Without even thinking, we choose to share our work identity.

Come on, admit it, this is a crisis.

Margot Fonteyn shared some great insight when she said, “Take your work seriously, but never yourself.” I wonder how she identified herself. Dame Fonteyn was a world famous ballerina, but this quote would suggest she was so much more.

Shouldn’t we all believe that we are so much more than what our J-O-B may suggest? For instance, my official title is Accounting Manager. After hearing this, most would assume that I lack personality and creativity. Maybe you would think that I’m a linear thinker and prefer spreadsheets over books or art.

I was recently told that, in fact, I’m not an Accounting Manager. Please, don’t misunderstand, that’s my title, but it’s not who I am. My skills and strengths drive this fact home (but that’s for another post).

I take my job very seriously. I understand that there is a greater purpose to the work that I am tasked with. I further understand that I’m part of something greater than those tasks and ultimately our organizations purpose will not be fulfilled if I’m unable or resistant to completing my job to the best of my ability.

More importantly, I take my role as a husband and a father very seriously. I’d much rather share that answer and the excitement and passion those roles bring. I choose to fight for my family and ensure that they feel loved and their needs are met.

I’m learning what it means to live the Ballerina’s quote. I fail miserably at it, but I’m now conscience of removing myself from my work when I’m not at work. I’m learning to relax and search for balance. It’s hard not to focus on work 24/7 in our modern world. We’re constantly connected to our work through smartphones and tablets.

So the question is what do you do? Who are you? Which identity do you choose to take seriously?

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The Journey Begins!

I’ve become an avid reader as I’ve grown older. I commented to a colleague recently how it seems when you have to do something, you don’t want to, but when you don’t have to, well, you do. This is how it is with me, and I assume, most everyone.

I hated reading when I was in school, and never did any reading simply because I wanted to. Truth be told, I didn’t do much reading when I was supposed to either. It’s a miracle I succeeded with a formal education.

I now make it a point to read as much as possible. I have a written goal to read a minimum of 25 books per year. I’ll be honest, I can’t name a single character in “The Hunger Games”, “Twilight”, or any other popular fiction series. However, this doesn’t rule out all fiction. I choose to share in the great adventures of Narnia every night as I read with my five-year old Son “The Chronicles of Narnia.” We’re currently in our fourth book!

My personal reading revolves around leadership, personal and organizational development, and inspiration/motivation. In our ever increasingly connected world, I have the privilege of learning from many of the greatest leaders of our time. It is my desire to reach a high pinnacle of personal and professional success, and I believe you have to continuously saturate your mind with the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of those men and women that have provided such great examples of leadership.

So, what am I to do with all this reading? …This is the part where I stare at the screen gripped with fear of being less than perfect with my words. I struggle with the thought that no one will care to read what I write…

And then, when I’m ready to pack up my thoughts and place them in the back of my mind, I read the wisdom of Jon Acuff. In a post he wrote on jonacuff.com, he says, “If your goal is to change the world, you have to share your work in whatever shape or form that might take. And sometimes that means getting comfortable with A -work.”

The fact of the matter is this, I’m crazy enough to believe I can change the world. I’m ready to take action with what I’ve learned from failed opportunities, great successes, incredible mentors, and great books. I’m confident I can affect change one reader at a time.

So, here goes… Welcome to my blog. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and critiques. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and maybe, just maybe, we’ll change the world together. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @chadro12

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