March 4, 2015 Dear Readers,
I recognize academic burnout when I see it. Most, if not all of us, have had it a time or two in our lifetime. I mean, let’s face it, from about the age of 4 or 5, upwards toward 18, we have an excess of compulsory school days in this country. So yeah, at one time or another, even I, lover of school and all things academic, have had academic burnout. It is what caused me to dropout of college after only 1 year. However, by that time, I had been going to school for 14 years. The thought of continuing another 2 was simply too much for me to take. I recognize academic burnout.
Unfortunately, I am seeing this phenomenon in my students. “Ho-hum,” some of you might sigh, “it happens to the best of us.” And indubitably, I would agree. However, signs of academic burnout in 12 and 13 year-olds used to be few and far between, it was the exception, not the rule.
When academic burnout hit me, at age 19, I emptied out my brain of anything and everything remotely school-y, I dropped out of the college scene, and I began working as a cashier at a convenience store. Now granted, it was certainly not the academic accolades I had always dreamt of receiving, but I worked hard, I began raising my family, and I was a contributing member of society. And truly, what more could society expect from this college drop-out?
Eventually, and by eventually I mean 14 years later, I returned to school, earned a Secondary Education/English B.A, graduated with honors, and became the teacher I knew I was always meant to be.
But that was me. That was 19, 20 year-old me. What path is there for a 12, 13 year-old academic burnout?
Even as I say it, it sounds ludicrous, “12, 13 year-old academic burnout!” But I’ve seen it; am seeing it. And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart not because they will have an adverse effect on society, although chances are… No, it breaks my heart because the joy of learning has all been sucked out of education and out of my students’ lives, if in fact, it was ever there to begin with.
My students cannot recall a time in their education when they weren’t being tested to death. And that, dear Readers, breaks my heart.
This past Tuesday marked the 21st instructional day my students have given up to testing. Wait, scratch that; the 21st instructional day that has been stolen from my students. Of the mere 51 school days so far this year, my students have slogged through 8 Common Formative Assessments (CFAs), 8 re-take CFAs, 4 days of Galileo Summative Assessments, and now, the ACT Explore. The 16 CFAs to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, the 4 days of Galileo to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, and the ACT as a pre-cursor as to how well they should expect to do on their college entrance exam! Seriously? Seriously.
As I walked up and down the rows of 8th graders, I wanted them to act out, act up, act indignant, act insulted, act like they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore. Admittedly, all they could do was act lethargic. And sadly, that was no act. 21 of my students’ 51 school days have been eaten up with testing. A full 41% of their time under my tutelage has been snatched away because of testing. Almost every other day. Testing.
Today, and I’m no social scientist here, but today’s junior high school students are exhibiting signs of academic burnout so frequently as to be considered normal. Is this what we, as a nation, are striving for? Is this the goal of our education communities? Is this how academia as we know it will end, not with a bang, but with a whimper? Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so. Peace, ~v.