Well, it's that time of the school year again. Parent-Teacher conferences. And, no surprise, I've got a fucking bee in my bonnet.
I'm sure all of you ladies with kids in elementary kids --- yes, I'm willing to admit that probably only women and possibly an occasional stray German tourist looking for kiddie-porn read these words I toil over. Ok. Toil is a strong word. If I really toiled I'd probably proofread this shit and I'm sure we can all tell by the spelling errors that THAT doesn't happen... what was my point again? Oh, yeah, elementary school kids' classrooms!
I'm sure you've all gone in to visit your little darling's classroom on back-to-school nights and conferences and the seemingly never-ending parental volunteering demands (ok, fine, I rarely do that... I'm busy, bitches! Writing important stuff like this...). Let me ask, have you noticed anything different from way back when you were in school?
Howabout that the modern American classroom suddenly looks like a cross between a carnival and an episode of Hoarders? Notice that? As you climbed over "seating pods" (because stupid things like desks in nice, neat little rows is out-moded, doncha know?) and skooched around piles of crap and bean bags and stray book shelves to rest your big bottom on a tiny chair. And when you did settle in, did your head swim at the amount of junk "decorating" the room? Did you have to put your sunglasses on to drown out the glare of the 16,965 pieces of "stimulating" "information" that plaster the walls?
There are, literally, giant posters of words HANGING from Deuce's 2nd grade classroom ceiling in the middle of the room. Because the fucking walls are FULL. And every piece of it is a visual cacophony of words and sentences. It looks like a acid-tripping textbook puked all over.
I get it. You teachers think that this is all very "stimulating" and will fuel crativity and will help our little learners learn, learn, learn, faster, faster, faster for that fucking standardized test that will determine your school's funding. I get it. Your "research" shows that this is great for young minds. I also get that is a total load of horseshit.
These rooms are so over-decorated, so busy, so "stimulating" that I feel like I have ADHD when I walk in there.
That's a problem. Because a shit-ton of our kids actually DO have ADHD. And sending them into a classroom that is so visually chaotic and noisy and then asking the poor little fuckers to sit down and listen is akin to sending them off to a torture chamber every day. It is actually increasing their problems to subject them to what amounts to sitting in a tween girl with a Beiber crush's bedroom everyday. Every frickin' surface is covered with visual noise and distractions. They already have problem enough blocking out distractions, piling on by hanging up every single thing you've ever thought and then put to paper or found "stimulating", is seriously HARMFUL to them.
And I can't help but note that there is a curious dovetail of this "new, stimulating" classroom decorating chic and the increased incidence of ADHD problems. Hmmm... ya think they could be related??
What the hell is wrong with an old-fashioned classroom? The culture in classrooms these days is like a PG version of an MTV New Year's Eve dance party! There's so much noise and discombobulation going on it's a wonder any of our kids have learned to spell their own names.
And what's worse? I know the teachers intuitively know that this is an anti-learning, counter-productive, anti-focus environment!! How do I know? Because when it comes time for these pupils to take that precious standardized test that they've been solely studying for all year what is the first thing that happens in the classroom? They cover the walls in paper to hide all the distracting chaotic nonsense. All that goes away for test days.
Sure you may argue that they do that to "keep kids from cheating" (which, really, if you've got the answers to the tests taped up to the walls, that's not even "stimulating" decor to begin with!), but I call bullshit on that, too, because guess what? ALL MAJOR TESTS are conducted in calm, soothing, quiet envrionments. You don't take your SATs and ACTs in a carnival, do ya? No. You know why? SO YOU CAN FOCUS!!
Guess what, teachers? That same sort of focus-friendly environment can be achieved all year round if you'd just take all the crap down in your room!
I long for a day when I can walk one of my sons into a room that is really designed for their learning. One where they can focus on what the teacher is teaching rather than get distracted by all the rest of the informational overload.
I yearn for a day when I can walk into a room that has neat, spare desks in rows. What genius came up with the idea for "pods" anyway?? Oh yeah, facing the kids in toward each other won't be distracting AT ALL! That won't encourage them to talk amongst themselves during lessons. Absolutely if you face them toward each other they'll have no problem focusing on the teacher! You smell that? That's sarcasm.
Truly, I pine for a day when I can take my kid into a room with nice, clean walls and teacher's desk not mounded over with so much crap you're afraid if you picked the mess up you'd find a mummified cat squashed underneath.
Here's all you need: A chalkboard (ok, ok, a smartboard), a map, maybe an alphabet (printed or cursive depending on grade), maybe pics of the presidents, and ONE bulletin board (with a defined edge) for extraneous crap that your dear, sweet little teaching heart just can't help but share.
Just try it. See if maybe those batshit crazy ADHD kids settle down a little bit. See if maybe your whole teaching day stops feeling like a trip to Burning Man on LSD-laced Thai stick. Maybe bringing a little calm into the environment, a little feng shui into the room, might fucking dial it back from rocking at an 11 all the live-long day. And then MAYBE we could all stop drugging our kids in effort to help them just make it through one more Willy Fucking Wonka day. Just saying.
I found some interesting articles on the subject, so if you're feeling as I am on this subject here's some further reading: