I gave my first test of the year this past Friday. For the last two weeks, one of my classes has studied the art and culture of the Middle Ages.
The first week I introduced major social roles and gave them worksheets that described – in simple language – Kings, Noble(wo)men, Knights, Bishops, Priests, Friars, Monks/ Nuns, Serfs, Servants, Minstrels, and Merchants. I had them complete “fill in the blank” worksheets to help them learn these roles. We did creative writing exercises.
The second week we talked about Gothic Architecture. Again, I gave them many, many handouts and had them do “matching” exercises to learn that Gothic Architecture is marked by (1) tall, sweeping designs, (2) flying buttresses, (3) vaulted ceilings, (4) pointed arches, (5) light, open, and airy interiors, (6) gargoyles, and (7) an emphasis on decor. We viewed a ton of slides and sketched our own features.
The night before the test, I purchased folders for each of the students, put stickers with their names on them, and put their worksheets inside. I provided these folders for the exams.
I took each and every question on the test AS A DIRECT QUOTE from their worksheets which they had in front of them.
This is what I got back.
A shocking lack of understanding of basic geography.
This. Is. Depressing.
The average test score was 59%.
I am not mad at my students. Yeah, they did some pretty silly stuff on their tests, but when you look more closely, this is obviously my fault. I’m their teacher. I should have taught them better. But I only see them 40 minutes a day and… and… and… who do I point the finger at now? I mean, for pete’s sake, finger-pointing seems to be all the rage in the education debate these days, so clearly I need to point at someone else and scream “not it! not it! not it!” at the top of my lungs. This isn’t fair. These kids are passing through the public school system and despite their teachers’ best efforts… they aren’t learning anything.
Do we blame then? The education system? The federal, state, and local mandates? The district? The curriculum advisers? The school administration? The faculty? The parents? The students themselves? Or do we look elsewhere? TV and the internet? Hollywood? Video games? Popular culture? Ugh.
Frankly, I’m feeling pretty depressed about this whole thing. Clearly this problem is far, far over my head and out of my hands. I’m discouraged by the lack of care people have for education and especially for my Fine Arts classes. I feel so terrible for my students who are struggling and misinformed and not getting a stellar education. I wish I could make it different. I am trying. We are all trying. But it doesn’t seem like it’s making a difference.
And I sort of want to scream “NOT IT” and quit.