Failing Education System

Bernadette Rocha
28 August 2014

I was trying to take a short nap before my favorite radio program, “Coast to Coast AM” (http://coasttocoastam.com) Kiro 97.3 FM comes on at 10PM (until 2AM). I woke up around 9PM and felt like checking my Twitter account (@bj_rocha). When I logged on, I noticed that I had four notifications in the notification bar. I was curious, and so I clicked on the link to see what mystery I would be in for.

There were three responses from a person who apparently disliked what I had to say regarding a recent article coming out spilling the fact that Washington (WA) State grade schools are the worst in the Country as many children are failing. Having grown up in this state, I can completely see the validity of this problem.

One remark I had made, which sparked this persons apparent irritation, was that fault (in part) lays with teachers who pass students onto the next grade without actually making sure they are ready. This person’s argument was that research (which this person failed to provide) shows that holding a child back is a problem, and is in fact – failing them.

Of course, I can’t leave anything alone, so I answered back. This resulted in an interesting dialogue regarding the school system, testing, poverty vs. wealth and parent intervention.

His assertion was that testing in this state is the biggest problem. That testing doesn’t measure everything. However, I pointed out that testing does, in fact, point out whether or not a child has basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills. Yes, our state government holds a lot of esteem in testing, however, student’s are not spending 100% of their time in class testing.

Part of the problem lays on how teachers are taught to teach in our state. Also, after a while, teachers become lax on teaching. I am not sure as to whether this is due to them hating their job, or just not caring anymore. Many other factors contribute as well, such as class size, materials, and even encouragement.

When I was in High School (graduated in 2005), I had trouble in an English class. Not because I didn’t understand the content, but because other student’s did not understand the content. Furthermore, my teacher, who was actually trying to teach the class, had to go over basic rules of grammar that these students should have had a basic understanding of before being allowed into 9th grade. By this time, it was 11th grade. She couldn’t teach the course content because she had to spend extra time going back to teach these students something they should’ve had a grasp of years earlier.

This turned out to be a major problem, as I was someone who tried my best, despite my poor socioeconomic upbringing. I grew up in a low-income household, and even spent time in foster care. My parent’s weren’t the one’s who helped me through this, I had no resources, I had nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Through encouragement from my first (of three) elementary school’s Librarian’s, I ended up finding a peaceful joy and hunger in reading and writing.

Since then, I noticed something. Teachers have the power to change lives. Sometimes, all they need is to motivate a child (or children) to do better. Sometimes, all they have to do is hold them to higher standards. Sometimes, all they have to do is pay a little more attention. However, this must begin at an early level, such as between preschool and third grade.

I digress..where was I? Ah, yes. As I had the encouragement at a younger age, I was able to find joy in learning, and so I tried my best, despite the fact that I was a poor child. So, when I came to my new High School, and found that I was being “held back” in a way – not because I wasn’t grasping the work, but because other students weren’t grasping the work leaving me hanging in the balance – I felt helpless.

That English class, was the breaking point for me. I knew that if I didn’t take charge of my education, I wouldn’t get very far. I couldn’t learn the course content as the teacher spent all her time teaching the other student’s basic skills. I took her aside one day and talked to her about this. As I had been doing exceptional on assignments (writing is, after all – a passion of mine), she felt that I would be able to switch to a creative writing class instead.

From there, my new teacher (who would be my English teacher the next year) realized that I wouldn’t get much out of her class as she had the same problem in her English classes with student’s who didn’t grasp basic writing concepts for their grade level. After having talked it over with my Sociology teacher (who also taught AP Composition – which is like English 101) it was decided that I would take AP Composition the next year. I was pleased, finally, a class where I would feel challenged and for once be with other student’s at my level. While I did not ace that class, I did pass with a B and felt very grateful that I had the opportunity.

This brings me to my next point. When teachers pass students onto the next grade level who are not ready to meet those needs, they are not just doing the students who they have passed a disservice. They are ensuring that those students who do possess the necessary skills needed for class end up being dragged down – emotionally and educationally.

Those students who do possess such skills are not able to proceed because the teachers attention is mostly focused on the students who are struggling due to lack of understand basic reading and comprehension skills. This does not translate simply to grade school. I personally encountered this recently in College as well.

College students, be aware. When you are taking a college class, the last thing you are going to think is that student’s who don’t belong in that class will be there. I was recently in a Spreadsheets class, which taught Excel 2013 and many of its confusing functions. This class is a requirement of the degree I am pursuing, and so I did my best. While I received an excellent grade in the end (95.4% with 100% on the Final) it was a little difficult because there were students in that class that were struggling simply because they could not understand the sentence structure in a college level textbook in which they were reading.

Those of us who were trying to pass and get homework done were struggling simply because we did not understand the content. Why? Because the teacher was busy spending his time going over Chapter 5 with students, when we had to have assignments from each chapter in between on up to 9 finished and turned in on time. When you are working with an online tool such as canvas, they are able to see when your assignments are turned in late. This meant that we not only had to read the chapter’s on our own, but we had to interpret it’s meaning and apply logic to the assignments on our own. This meant many hours spent in the Campus library and computer lab.

What is the point of all of this?

The point is, that many factors contribute to a failing school system. Not simply the amount of time spent on testing. The person of whom I was having a twitter debate with asserted that wealthier children did better because they are more advantaged and proceeded to say that was why poor children did poorly. That is not necessarily true. Yes, wealthier children are more privileged, but at the early education level, they still had to learn their ABC’s and 123’s the same way as anyone else’s child.

This is oftentimes in the form of their parents teaching them their most important skills. I work with low-income/homeless parents and their children. I see first hand how the difference in parenting styles vs how prepared education their children are. This is not simply parenting style, but also, the parent’s own ability to teach their children.

I have personally noticed that children of parents (no matter their education level) who have read to them each day from a children’s book, or help them with learning their ABC’s, 123’s, shapes, colors, etc…those are the children who do better than the ones who simply come in to use the facility and basically ignore their kids. Parent’s (despite their educational background) can still and must play a pivotal part in their children’s upbringing and education. They must instill a love of learning themselves.

If the child doesn’t see mom or dad reading or even trying to go back to school (even for a GED), then how are they going to respect their decision for them to receive an education? They think that it’s not a big deal for mom and dad, so why should they do it?

It is my opinion that saying that children from wealthier families do better because they have money and can afford things like music and sports, etc is absurd. Children from wealthier families do better because they are pushed to do better. They see their parents doing good and want to do good themselves. So they push themselves. If a child from a low-income community sees their parents (or any other role model) going to school, working, etc then they are more than likely to follow in that persons footsteps to gain approval.

While music and sports is nice, they have nothing to do with learning basic skills. Besides, many school do offer music and sports. For low-income families, many of these schools offer waivers and scholarships. Many schools also offer tutoring, and if they cannot get tutoring from their schools, then most libraries offer tutoring, yet – how many people actually take advantage of it?

There is so much more I could say about this subject, and perhaps will in the future. However, it is already late and I would like to listen to Coast to Coast AM before going to bed, as I have already missed an hour.

Best,

Bernadette Rocha

From Within

Bernadette Rocha
28 August 2014

PART I

“You’re burdening me with your problems.” His words cut like a knife in her heart. “I love you, but I need you to stop relying on me for everything.” The moment he’d said this, her heart stopped. He stood there, looking at the ground. Quiet. He wouldn’t even make eye contact.

Her heart throbbed. She rubbed her chest to try and ease the pain. It was useless. The pain was from within her now further damaged soul. She wanted to be held so badly, but she couldn’t do anything about it. Whatever she’d done, whatever she’d said, it was clear that she was too much for him. Why else would he have said that? Didn’t he care about her? Was she really that burdensome?

“I’m sorry,” he said. Finally, he lifted his eyes. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. He looked away. Was it really that hard for him? It hurt her even more to know that she’d been the source of his own pain and frustration. She’d thought that they were doing well. How did they get to this point?

“I’m sorry,” he repeated. This time, he pulled her into his arms. “I don’t want us to split up, I just want us to be happier together.” Up until then, she’d said nothing. She hadn’t even cried. She’d been in shock. He doesn’t want to leave her? It made no sense. It angered her that he’d say such a hurtful thing, yet say that he still wanted her. Did he not just contradict himself?

“How can you say that?” Tears spilled from her eyes. He pulled back a little bit. She pulled back completely. He looked at her with confusion and worry. That was right, he’d never seen her truly angry before. “How can you say that?” She said again, this time with as much anger as she could muster. She hated him so much right then. She hated him because she loved him.

“I was upfront about everything with you from the beginning.” She paused to catch her breath in between crying. “You knew that my life was difficult, that it’d take work for us to be together. I’ve been trying not to bother you with my problems because you work so hard and I didn’t want you to have to come home to that. It was only a few times. I had no one else to talk to. It was only a few times! You knew this!”

She was so distraught that she wasn’t even sure what she was saying anymore. So badly did she want him to pull her back into his loving embrace. Why didn’t he? They stood there for a couple of minutes longer, neither saying a word. She was battling her emotions, trying to breathe and regain composure. It was no use. She fell to her knees, physically exhausted.

New Poem

Hey friends, I just added a new short poem to Poetic Habits. (Click Here) This is the first poem I’d written in a few months. Haven’t been in the mood for poetry until recently. I went back and read some of the poems I’d uploaded on Poetic Habits in the past and can’t believe the absurdity of some. Haha, sometimes I wonder about what runs through my own brain at times.

Best,
Bernadette R.

The Librarian: A Short Love Story

Bernadette Rocha
21 August 2014

In the middle of an important conversation, his voice suddenly trailed off. There she was. His eyes followed her from the door to the empty chair at a computer which she chose. He watched as she pulled out her books. Never would she ever actually use all of them at the workstation, yet, she always pulled them all out. It mystified him.

A pair of fingers, which suddenly began snapping in front of his face, pulled him out of his hypnosis. Regretfully, he drew his attention back to the couple in front of him. They seemed annoyed, and no wonder considering the woman had previously asked him to look up her password so that she could login to the computers using her Student ID. Her boyfriend was irritated that it was taking so long. His face was turning red simply in an obvious effort to keep his cool. Class would be starting in a couple of minutes and they could not afford to be late. He hurriedly busied himself.

“Ah, here it is.” He gave the woman her password, and quickly handed the Student ID card back to its owner. As the young couple quickly hurried off to their class, his thoughts began drifting back to the mysterious young woman who came in earlier. He was surprised at himself. She wasn’t exactly his type. He usually fell for small boned women, with long black hair, dark eyes, and high sense of style. In other words, he usually went for Asian women. Perhaps that was because it was his own ethnic background, or could it be pressure from his parents? He shuddered to think of their reaction if he were to bring a white girl home.

He could nearly hear it already, “A white girl? We didn’t pay for you to come to America for your education so that you can ruin your life. Why not date Marady? She is from a nice and respectable family, and she understands our own.” As beautiful and talented as Marady was, first of all, she had a boyfriend, and second of all, he wasn’t interested in her. What the hell did they mean by, our own? His eyes narrowed in anger at how ignorant and prejudiced his family was.

This woman, the one he found his eyes glued to, was a stark contrast to his usual type. She wasn’t thin – then again, she wasn’t fat either – just somewhere in between – and somehow…it worked for her. Her choice of clothing tended to consist of hoody’s and jeans, which looked as though she could’ve bought in any Old Navy. In fact, judging by her choice of wardrobe, he thought that she might even be somewhat poor.

Why didn’t this bother him? In the past, he’d never have gone for such an obvious low-class girl, back in Seoul. In fact, he never would even have given her a second look. Yet, he was mesmerized by her. She had a certain…air about her, yet, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Had the six months that he’d spent in this country really changed him that much?

As she began to work at the workstation, he saw two girls come and sit at opposite sides of her. They began to talk and laugh. As they were in a library, he wondered at her loudness. He was tempted to go over there and ask her to quiet down a bit. Why not? He was a librarian and they were in a library after all. Working up the nerve, he left the counter and walked towards her.

As he made his approach, she glanced up, catching his eye. The smile that she formed for him made his heart flutter, leaving him feeling awkward and confused. He was caught off-guard. What had just happened? Averting his eyes, he walked past and busied himself with some chairs which suddenly needed to be pushed back to the tables.

Making his way back to the reception counter, he tried to make sense of what had expired. How did she throw him off guard like that? Her smile had disarmed him greatly. He could barely concentrate. Why couldn’t he talk to her? Having always seen her at a distance, he couldn’t make sense of his feelings for her. However, the point that their eyes met, he felt as though a string were tugging at his heart.

Catching his breath, he suddenly realized that she had stopped talking. Looking in her direction, he was startled to see her staring at him. And with such intensity! This time, he couldn’t tear his eyes off of her. His heart beat rapidly, and he felt his face grow hot. She moved to get up, and began walking towards him. His breathing grew shallow and rapid, and his forehead and the palms of his hands began to perspire.

The young lady paused before him, trying to make eye contact. He was so freaked out that he could only look at her chocolate hair, cascading down her shoulders, ending mid-chest level. Oh no! He was looking at her breasts now! Yet, he couldn’t pull his eyes away. It was either that or looking into the depth of her eyes.

She stepped closer, forcing him to look her in the eye. She said not a word as she put her arms around his neck and kissed him fully on the lips. He went rigid. Not because he didn’t enjoy it, because that was far from the truth, rather, he suddenly went blank on what he should do. She had the power to take away his capacity for thought. She responded to this reciprocal absence by pressing her body into him, kissing him more.

As quickly as it had begun, it ended. She stepped back, and smiled a mischievous smile, with a gleam in her eye. As she stepped back and made to turn away, he was caught by a sudden bout of courage as the thought of her slipping away crossed his mind. He couldn’t let her slip through his fingers!

Before she could fully turn away, he grabbed her hand and pulled her back into his arms. Before she could protest, he gave her a passionate kiss. He could taste the cherry chapstick that she had worn, and the coffee that she’d been drinking. He didn’t care. All that mattered was her and how he never wanted it to end. He groaned when she pulled away. She giggled at that.

“Hi,” he whispered. She reached up and swept a strand of his black hair away from his forehead. Gazing into her eyes, he realized that it no longer freaked him out.

“Hi,” she whispered back. Smiling, she leaned in and kissed him again. He didn’t care about the bell which dinged in his ear, signaling the presence of one that needed help. He didn’t care that there were faculty voices in his ear trying to get his attention. The only thing that mattered was this moment, and prolonging it as long as he possibly could.

END

NOTE: This story is the sole property of Bernadette Rocha and is not to be reproduced in any way, shape or form without express permission from myself, the Author. Thank you for respecting this.

Random Conversation with a 6 Year-Old

Bernadette Rocha

21 August 2014

 

As this is the last day of class for Summer Quarter, I have been pretty worn out. Finals week has been exhausting and I am pleased it is over. All I must do now, is completed a couple of assignments, submit them through the Canvas interface and can breathe a HUGE sigh of relief for a job well done.

As a friend of mine and I had already been studying within our Campus’ computer lab for a couple of hours, we decided to go and have lunch. We meandered on over to the lounge at the Office of Student Life so that we could enjoy our lunch in a comfortable and relatively quiet area before heading back to work on our assignments.

Outside the door, the aroma of delicious meat filled the air. Walking in, I commented on how good it smelled. My friend agreed. Then, we noticed that the delicious smell had originated from the lunch which was on the table before an adorable little girl. We told her how much better her lunch was compared to our own and she seemed pretty pleased.

This, I suppose, is what prompted her to begin conversing with us about different things that she didn’t like. Of course, we ended up asking the obvious. “What do you like?” Somehow, the conversation turned from how she liked apples and oranges into a several-minute presentation about all things “My Little Pony” while her mom worked a few feet away on her homework. I commented that with that much knowledge, she should carry pictures next time for the next time that she talked about her favorite show.

Determined to change the subject as there is only so much of “My Little Pony” one can take when you are 27 years old, I asked what else that she liked. Misunderstanding, she launched into another segment of her presentation. Finally, we were able to persuade her to change the subject and learned that she is allergic to strawberries, hates chocolate milk, and is 6 years old.

Then, she decided she wanted to tell us a secret. Giggling, she comes up to my friend, covers my friend’s ears with her hands and whispers (rather loudly) her “secret”. Her secret consisted of what she liked about the movie, “Frozen”. Then, she tried to come on over to me and tell me this “secret” as well. She must have been having fun with it because she couldn’t even get out two words. Instead, she burst into a fit of giggles and fell on the couch cracking up. She repeatedly tried to tell me for a few more minutes, but each time it resulted in her giving up do to her giggle fit. Finally, the little girl was able to tell me her “secret”.

At that point, we had finished our lunch and needed to head back to the computer lab to work on our assignments. Hey, it isn’t easy keeping a GPA above a 3.7, and I am pretty sure I will have one of at least 3.9 for this quarter. Excellent grades take determination, persistence and lots of studying. We said our goodbyes and headed out.

On our way back to the computer lab, I realized that the conversation that we had with the free-spirited little girl reminded me of class this morning when some classmates did a presentation on the importance of fun. This little girl, who was probably pretty bored before we arrived, decided to make the most out of having to wait for her mom finish studying. She found that she can have a fun conversation with a couple of college students, and all she needed to do was to start the conversation.

I must admit, aside from the lengthy conversation about “My Little Pony”, I enjoyed myself. She was adorable with her pink outfit and pink backpack and had a lot of energy. When we arrived back in the computer lab, my friend commented on how much more energy she had after talking to the little girl. I agreed, and thought I’d share this with you before wrapping up the last of my assignments. :-)

 

 

When Stuck on a Non-Productive Team

by Bernadette Rocha
18 August 2014

It should go without saying that teamwork is important when working in groups. However, it does not always translate as so. Oftentimes, students are placed into groups against their will. For some, this is a blessing in disguise, for others, this may feel like a curse.

When placed into a group full of team members who are already not motivated to participate or barely contribute, the prospects of trying to get work done on schedule may seem daunting.

The first thing you need to do, is BREATHE. Meditate, do yoga, stare off into space, read, take a nap, listen to music, or do anything else that you normally do in order to de-stress. This will help you make more logical decisions.

Are you ready?

Step One: Take Charge. No matter how seemingly incompetent your teammates may seem, you are still stuck with them. However, this does not mean you need to be stuck with a failed grade, especially if your project is a Mid-Term or Final Group Research Paper and/or Presentation. This is an important part of your grade and you shall not allow others to tarnish your chances at graduating with as high of marks as you deserve.

Test the air by casually asking what everyone thinks regarding how they think the project should be divided up. If you are lucky, you will get some feedback, if not, take point.

Step Two: Get Contact Info. You will need your group members’ e-mail, and possible phone numbers. If they do not offer it up off the bat, pull out a piece of paper and start gathering their info. Ask if there are any days that they could meet out of class. If you are lucky, working outside of class will be possible. If not, keep that in mind. It might mean that you will be doing more work than you otherwise should.

Step Three: Create Assignments. Look over the assignment carefully. Think about your group members and their individual abilities (if it can be determined) and think of how you can section the project out “fairly” between everyone. If there is no motivation among everyone else to do anything, then you will have no choice but to give them assignments.

For example: Say you have eight prompts to answer thoroughly for your paper and you have four people in your group. Give each person two of the prompts, make sure they are simple and take the two that are more difficult for yourself. If you want difficult portion to get done correctly the first time, you will have to do it yourself.

Create an email and send the same message to each member. This way, each person will see what everyone will be responsible for. Make sure it is pleasant, and don’t forget to say thank you. Make the email sound as though you are happy and smiling. Do not forget to add what you are working on. They are more than likely to concede with your planned assignments if they see you will be working on the hardest part.

Now, the biggest thing to remember when giving assignments, is giving them deadlines. You need their work by so-and-so date so that you can get started on the final paper. Make sure that they add sources so that not only do you not have to do extra work to try and find where they found their info, but also so that you can make certain that no one plagiarized what they sent you.

Step Four: Check In. If you are not able to work in class with your team members, then you will need to try to talk to them one on one. Try to get them to work as a group outside of class, if at all possible, even if it is only for half an hour. Your goal is to find out if they have begun working on the assignment. If this does not work, make sure to keep emailing them. This will also ensure that you leave a paper trail.

Step Five: Prepare for the worst. Get your portion of the research done ASAP. Prepare your sources right away. Then, as each person’s portion comes in, cross-reference their source to their work. Then, re-format the source for your Works Cited page, if needed before incorporating their portion into the final paper. The last thing you want is to be messing with sources on the night before the paper is due.

Then, after your portion is finished, and their starts rolling in, start doing some extra research. Chances are that they did not add as much as you would otherwise had hoped. This is the point where you realize you will have to do the bulk of the research for the paper (as well as the edits) and you are greatly happy that you are already done with everything else regarding this project. You now have some extra time to do more research.

Step Six: Rough Draft. When you are finished editing the paper. E-mail it to your team members (or put on your group files if you are using Canvas). Email your members and tell them you have uploaded/attached the paper and ask them for their input. Give them a deadline to respond. If they do not respond by that time, tell them you will submit the paper (if using Canvas) or turn it in in person. Most likely, you will not have to worry about having to do any more edits.

Step Seven: Submit Work. Submit your work and relax. If your Instructor allows you to fill out a group evaluation form, then this is where you can vent all of your frustrations regarding your team members and their “involvement” in the project.

Step Eight: Forgive and forget. You are done with the project. No need to hold a grudge. Be rest assured that you took charge of this ill situation and, if this is not something you normally do, then feel pleased that you have gained some knowledge in how to handle this. Give your self a hug!