I heard two comments from teachers this week that were pretty thought-provoking. The first comment was phrased something like, “The system is only designed for a specific type of student.” The quote really puzzled me. I agree with it on some level and disagree with it on another. I know the system seems rigid guided by standards and assessments that can overload not only the minds of students, but also the minds of teachers, parents and administrators. If educators look solely at state assessments and the performance standards necessary to pass the assessments, then perhaps the system only caters to a specific type of student. Is the system synonymous with state standards and assessments, or is there multiple perspectives on what the system is?
I tend to believe that the greater system does revolve around these standards and assessments, but what occurs in individual classrooms tends to be, or can be, associated with a different system. Educators have been faced with the challenge of helping students of all abilities, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles be successful in the classroom. It is this challenge that allows classrooms to be different and the ability of teachers to be creative in their classrooms. Each teacher has his or her own beliefs about what needs to happen in his or her classroom to help students be successful. What is difficult sometimes is the need to adapt within the structure of the system in order to modify it for the betterment of learning.
I started using movement in the classroom when I realized what I was doing in the classroom at the time was not successful. I was trying to force students into a system that was not working for them. It was a broken environment that needed to be adjusted. I had to think outside of my box, my comfort zone, in order to help make the existing system work. Did I cave into an established way of thinking or teaching? I suppose some may think I did, but I tend to think that I moved beyond the structured walls into the details of the teaching architectural design. I modified my classroom to not only meet my needs, but the needs of my students. Is the system catered to one type of student? Maybe, but the rearrangement of the system’s boundaries can create moments of open doors.
The second statement I heard this week really irritated me. A special education teacher referenced how physical education class time has been reduced for some special needs students because they need to take more content-driven, or remedial, courses. I understand the rationale behind these types of class assignments. More class time in content specific classes should result in more learning and higher assessment scores, right? Research has indicated the that students need to move. In fact, students that are less active, perform more poorly on assessments than those who are active. So, instead of reducing physical education time for these students, they should be given physical activity in physical education classrooms and throughout the school day. Forcing them to take extra core content-based courses is bowing down to the system rather than looking at the individual learners and what they physically and mentally need to be successful.