Sunday, September 14, 2008

The 'Burbs

You never know whom you are going to run into when you watch a football game. Except me, I knew whom I was running into, a bunch of other teachers. The DOE employs one of the teachers, the one hosting the football party; a suburban district employs the other teacher. Since we were watching the Jets-Dolphins and I couldn’t care who won or lost, all I head left was the Blue Moon beer and talking shop with the suburban teacher. Oh no! Did I just mention I drink beer? Teachers are perfect, we don’t drink beer, nor do we have any other vices.

So this teacher from the suburbs is a fifth grade teacher. I asked him how his class did on the state wide ELA test last year. He told me two students failed the test. “Two students received ones?” I inquired. No he told me, “Two students received twos.” Apparently in his district two is considered failing, whilst in NYC two is passing. I guess they have higher standards and expectations in the ‘burbs.

A shot of Bill Parcells is shown on the screen. Charley the Tuna he is, or at least was called in his days with the Giants. Personally I think he is all about himself. So blocking out the image of Parcells I inquire what the fifth grade is doing in social studies. I find out that the beginning of the year the emphasis is on the American Revolution, and then evolves into American history and then Latin America. I explain to him what a buff I am of American History I am. He tells me that his schools take the fifth grade to Philadelphia for a day so they can SEE American history. Does that happen in NYC? Maybe it happens in Riverdale, Forest Hills, and a few select schools in districts 1 and 2, but never South Bronx kids. Maybe it is because of money concerns? I see enough three hundred dollar sneakers, enough satellite dishes, and know too many students with Wii, Playstation, and whatnot to know that is not the main reason. I know the PTA’s are great in raising money, and there are a lot of fat cat philanthropists attached to the DOE to help fund a trip. I guess they have higher standards and expectations in the ‘burbs.

“Surely you are still teaching the basics of how to decode words in fifth grade? Lots of visual clues all over the room, charts and such?” I give him a glare as Favre completes a pass. “”No, just really working on their comprehension at this stage,” he replies as Coach Mangini is shown on the tube. Foiled again! I guess they have higher standards and expectations in the ‘burbs.

Even at my child’s school this is the type of learning that is going on. It all seems inquiry based. No rote learning. No taking a test to practice taking a test time after time after time. There are no behavior charts in classes in my child’s school. Everything I see being done in his class, the same grade in the city is at least a grade behind. Are the city students dumber than suburban students? No. Do the students in the city have less advantages that a suburban student? Yes. And no.

The student from Upper Saddle River, or Roslyn, or Scarsdale has the same challenges, as does the inner city student, absentee parents, lax parenting, and no discipline. But it is the system in the ‘burbs in which challenges the students, teaches the students how to think, how to create, and how to use their higher order thinking skills. All we have become is covering our butts and teaching to the test.

I guess they do have higher standards and expectations in the ‘burbs.

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