Teaching Standards

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

Are the standards what is important? What is the purpose of teaching standards?

Well, I can say that as a math instructor, to have a national standard that we go by helps with the order of instruction in the classroom.

When I have students move into my school from other states, I have conversations with the student about what they have been learning. However, a lot of the time it’s a guessing game because they don’t understand the terminology that I am using to have a full conversation.

However, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about my 7th grade year of Science.

Now, this is going back to the mid-90s (I think before Science standards were really pushed in Kansas).

I had the lone 7th grade Science teacher, Mr. Don Fast. His room was full of live and taxidermy animals. This guy LOVED science, especially birds.

Why do I mention this? Well, every 7th graders who went through McPherson schools had to learn the birds of Kansas. He had a list of over 100 birds that we learned how they looked, their sounds, and many other aspects. He worked with us and gave us time to learn these birds.

Then came the big tests. Yes, tests. We had 3 different tests to identify the birds. He would pull out his slide projector and turn off the lights. Showing us one bird at a time, we had to name the bird. (I think we had a word bank of the birds, but I can’t quite remember.) If you didn’t do as well as you wanted, there were even retakes so that you could get a higher score.

What was the purpose of this though? Who wants to learn about the birds of Kansas?

Well, for starters, those who scores a 70% or higher on the three tests got to attend a day at Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend. This was a day to go and observe the birds. It was an awesome day that students were able to get out of school and go on a field trip.

That was the incentive for the students to learn the birds.

Why did it matter though?

Well, for some students I’m sure it struck an interest to get outside and learn the birds. For me, now as an adult, I can spot different birds, even here in Oklahoma as they migrate through.

We even had a unit where we learned the fish that could be found in Kansas. I faired better on this test because I grew up camping and fishing with my dad.

Now I believe that due to the new Science Standards, this does happen anymore. Kids are being forced to learn the same thing everywhere. There are some things that I feel every kid should know about, but a kid in Kansas doesn’t care too much about oceanography because they haven’t experienced the ocean (I didn’t until I was a senior in high school and that was even for only 20 minutes).

So are teaching standards good? What will these look like in the future if schools start to follow Finland who is getting away from teaching by subjects and going toward topic teaching?

What are your thoughts? Are there any units that you remember as a student that you now wonder if they still do?

  1. National standards are good – kids move and all that. But making the learning personal, like your science teacher did, that is where education happens!

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