March Madness

SPRING“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

In schools, March comes in like a lion and leaves like a Tasmanian Devil.  As an Assistant Principal I can say that my work in the discipline realm picks up in March.  Kids are tired, teachers are tired – people seem to reach the end of their ropes.  I have been contemplating the reasons for this on the last day of my least favorite month in school.

First, with winter clinging on (although here in Northern California I’ll have to put “winter” in quotes), the students and teachers look tired.  Like Sisyphus, teachers have a never dwindling stack of papers to grade, and students have a full planners and backpacks.  Teachers try to squeeze the last bit of content before the high-stakes tests, making everyone feel frustrated and rushed.  Kids see their grades become a permanent part of their “records,” and understand that choices they may have made back in August continue to get in their way.  For seniors, AP exams loom, college acceptances and rejections color each day, and with one foot in adulthood, they sometimes revert back to making childish choices about what to do before a spring dance.  March is an endless march forward into the end of another school year.

The frustrating thing is that the madness of March can be avoided.  School doesn’t need to culminate in high-stakes entrance to the right college, content doesn’t have to be “covered” in 182 days, homework doesn’t have to suck up the free time of our young people, tests don’t have to dictate what and how we learn.  The logic of our present system is illogical, yet as those who have been successful in this system, it is very hard to consider how to make our way out of it.  We continue to tinker around the edges when what is needed is a completely new way of education.

Let’s end the madness of March by ending the madness of public education as we know it.  Hand me a sledge hammer.

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