Slip-on shoes and velcro.
Now, one might be thinking that these two things are a bit of an oxymoron — a phrase that appears on its face to contradict itself.
However, when it comes to certain things in this province, that phrase eloquently describes just what is happening.
I speak of the public education system in many areas of Alberta — I grew up in north western region, while my children have gone to school in four different areas of the province.
First off, let’s tackle the pathway that takes our children from kindergarten through the end of Grade 12. Or, maybe more appropriately it should be from the time the kids are three years old until they graduate high school.
It used to be that kids entered kindergarten and learned how to socialize and have fun, all the while not realizing that they were actually learning skills and being prepared for actual school.
Now, if a child doesn’t know how to print and spell their own name, know a big list of numbers, read simple books and operate a laptop like an adult programmer by the time they hit kindergarten, the parents are looked at like they’ve neglected the child and created a huge hassle for the teacher and the school.
Translate those types of expectations into the elementary grades and children that didn’t have the luxury of having those high-cost pre-school years either fall behind, hounded to catch up or simply skipped up the line.
Why is that?
Well, a lot of it has to do with over-worked teachers, understaffed schools, lack of time spent by professionals to support higher needs students, students getting lost in large class sizes, teachers that either don’t care or want to understand how to care for some types of students, administrations that are disconnected from the process and school divisions that try to do everything and accomplish very little.
All of this is occurring due to a couple things — the continued troubles with funding what is needed and the enormous focus on the pushy agenda of graduating kids at nearly any cost.
Toss in the ‘over reliance’ on technology in classrooms and there are students that can’t actually ‘write’ legibly or read an ‘actual’ book even in Grade 9.
There are going to be people and educators that will disagree with this reasoning, but this isn’t meant to paint everyone with the brush.
Clearly, there are educators out there that have the best interests of the student and the school system as their basis for being involved. And, I can say, I’ve seen some and some of my children have been privileged enough to have been instructed by a few of those glorious teachers, educational assistants and other professionals.
The problem comes in that those people are now few and far between — from our experience.
And the farther away you get from larger centres or if you happen to have a child that is one that doesn’t fit the mould of the average or better, then the child tends to fall through the cracks.
What that usually means is a huge amount of difficulty for the parents and child.
From being shuffled from class to class, pushed into the next grade despite not knowing what was taught in even a modified program to having to go over and over and over the same things with each different professional or school specialist — even if its simply changing schools within the same division.
That’s in addition to dealing with having to re-teach the new teacher on what to expect (even if its in the same school or division), the hassles when trying to navigate the complexities of the system and having to (often times) fighting tooth and nail with administration to get what the child deserves — only to (most times) be greeted with the condescending or apologetic attitude while they say it won’t happen and you’ll just have to deal with it.
So, all you are left with in the end is trying your best to assist and encourage the child to do their best, not worry about everything else and know that you are going to keep fighting for them.
In this way, the education system seems to have fallen into the cushy and basic route to pumping out grads.
In other words, slip on shoes and velcro.
But that is…just an observation.