Core Values Series: Respect

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Laura Smith on 17-03-2009

When people start to talk about values, things can get touchy.  Not everyone has the same values, they say.  Don’t try to push your morals on me, they say.  However, I think there are a few basic values that are non-negotiable.  What I’m trying to say, in a nice way, is that if you don’t have these values, you are flat-out wrong.  (What?  Did she just say that?  Oh yes she did!)

Which brings me to my first value in this series: Respect.  Dictionary.com defines this as:

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability; proper acceptance or courtesy.

Let’s break it down to its most basic meaning: Respect is the sense of a person’s worth.  Shouldn’t we all treat each other as having worth as a person?  You don’t have to agree with everyone, you don’t even have to like everyone, but you should treat them as human! 

I’ve been thinking about respect a lot lately.  I have two children, in whom I am trying to instill a sense of respect for others, especially their parents.  But I seem to be a lone voice in this fight.  There are so many bad examples out there: Other parents we see in public who don’t respect their children, much less require respect from them, television stars and cartoon characters who do inappropriate things or talk back to their tv parents like they’re garbage.  It’s very disheartening.  And I’ve begun to wonder, where did respect go?  When I was young, I had great respect for my parents, and their stories are legend-(wait for it) ary about how they would have never DARED talk back or question the authority of their parents. 

So why are we letting go of respect?  Why are we, as a society, accepting this?  People say that TV influences how we act.  Well, someone is writing these TV shows!  Why do we accept them as OK if we don’t agree with them?  Have we lost respect for others because others have stopped being worthy of our respect?  It seems like a downward spiral.  And we had better fight against it, because, as I see it, respect for others is the foundation of all other values.  We have values because we respect ourselves and others.  If we lose that respect… where are we headed? 

Doubts about 21st Century learning…

Filed Under (Work) by Laura Smith on 10-03-2009

Ok, I know the title of this blog post is, like, blasphemy on this site.  However, I have to get this off my chest.   I have been reading a lot lately, on my Google Reader feeds, and throughout the educational community, about the push towards 21st Century Learning.  The NECC blog is filled with examples, such as this post by Wesley Fryer and this link to one of many similar youtube videos

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I completely agree that we need to engage our students in a way that we have not ever done before, and are still not doing, for the most part.  I agree that education has to be innovative.  I agree that we need to produce students who don’t just memorize facts, but can think and speak for themselves.  And don’t even get me started on No Child Left Untested Behind. 

But, we can’t differentiate everything.  We can’t sacrifice basic standards.  We can’t continue to lower our educational expectations, because what we expect from our students, we will get. 

I recently assigned a PowerPoint project to my computer lab classes.  Each grade had a different topic, and they were to research their topic and compile their information into a presentation that would be shared with the class.  Let me tell you, I have taught research strategies to my students many times, but they often struggle with finding even the most basic facts.  They want the information to come to them.  They avoid reading web pages like the plague!  If the information doesn’t jump off the website and bite them, then “I can’t find anything.”  Students are becoming too used to the instant gratification of “info-tainment” and games.  They are forgetting how to work for their learning.  And we can’t allow this to happen.  After the presentations were complete, I encouraged them to edit, proofread, and double check their work.  I feel bad saying this, but when I saw the finished presentations, I was appalled at the spelling and grammar errors.  I don’t expect perfection, but some of them were barely readable!  What does that say about our standards?  In my opinion, they are slipping.  And we can’t allow this to happen.  I’m so upset while writing this, I think I may dig up those presentations and make the students find and fix all their errors.  I can’t let them get away with mediocrity.  I want them to be the best that they can be!

What our students need is not more tests.  We need to have more time for basic, solid skills on which to build a foundation.  Yes, I want our students to solve problems and think creatively, but they need to know how to read, write, and add first! 

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