how are the children doing


When Tanzanians meet each other, one of the questions traditionally adults ask each other is Watoto Wazima? (How are the Children Doing?)  The graphics above and below are from In Our Village: Through the Eyes of its Youth.  Do Americans focus as much on that question: How are the Children Doing? or are they more focused on how is business doing?  There’s a difference between how children are “doing” vs “performing”.

Education reformers will be anxious to jump in and say, yes, they are very concerned about how the children are doing.  They tell us they are falling behind in school, aren’t globally competitive and we have to use their vision of education so they can become better human capital.  The reformers see children are serving the interests of business and data points.  I’m thinking that’s not what the answer to the question the Africans are seeking.  I think they want to know how the children are doing on a personal level, not on the level of being a chess piece on a global chessboard:





Here’s a story about a Connecticut 9th grade student about whom the teachers/administrators and the superintendent/school board should be asking “how is this child doing?”  How many stories have we read or heard about children imploding from the standardization of their education?  What is the overwhelming response from educators, administrators, school boards and reformers?  They don’t care or at least don’t let on that Common Core is proving toxic to many children.  They don’t ask and they don’t pay attention to the child’s tears or frustration.  Some may think this high level frustration is good for students so they can learn the perseverance techniques favored by the reformers.   Many of them don’t ask because they are just following orders, not making waves and keeping their jobs:

I am hearing stories from high school students that is breaking my heart, a young girl was so frustrated with the Common Core Math yesterday she actually broke down crying in class. I asked another student who witnessed it if the teacher came over to help at all, or took the time to slow down and explain it better, this teacher did not even acknowledge the girl crying, he continued on with his curriculum. This student has been an A+ student in Math and now she is struggling to the point of having a beak down in classroom. I don’t know how it is for the teachers in high school but I do know that the teachers are not even close to being prepared to even teach the new curriculum. But I find it sad that this teacher would not even take the time to help out this student. Common Core is hurting the students and educating process in our school systems. I have asked this student to write about her experience, but she is not the only one in this school and in this particular classroom that do not understand the confusing hot mess of CC Math, many do not even want to take the test because they know they will fail it, so they question do I not take the test and get a failing grade anyways and most likely will have to repeat the class next year? Is this the future we want for our children? Is this the environment we want our children to be in? Help stop Common Core in CT and get involved!


What can happen if instead of mandates, scripted lessons, threats of unaccreditation and loss of funding, teachers/administrators/state education agencies/school boards, etc start asking “Watato Wazima”?  How ARE the Children Doing?  They also need to remind themselves that they are educating CHILDREN, not Human Capital.  We need some new tribal chiefs in education.  The current village leaders have sold us and our children out.

Here’s how focusing on children’s needs vs business wants can work in a school.  From How are the Children?:

One night I found myself cooking dinner with a soon to retire headmaster from South Africa.  He had been a head for 37 years.  The part that I remember most — the part that’s just so crystal clear in my mind is — before we even exchanged names — Val introduced me to him, and he looked at me — he just looked at me — and turned his head at an angle and said – “how are the children?”.  And before we even exchanged pleasantries, we just talked about the kids in our school.

I’ll never forget that because it reminded me of the fact that I often times forget, that the only reason why the schools exist — the only reason why we had to have jobs is that there are kids who need careful and attentive care.

And it led to me to make a little poster and put it above my door.  And every time I left my office to either do the kind of management by walking around or go find a teacher to tell them what a great job they’re doing or what a poor job they’re doing — and to look at that sign and be reminded of what I’m about ready to do — what I’m going to do.  Or sometimes I’m not embarrassed to say, that sometimes reading that sign made me stop what I was about ready to do.

I always go back to that story — the first thing he said to me before anything else is – “how are the children doing?”.

It’s not that I didn’t do that before — but what I’ve done since then — it’s been kind of a central guidepost for making decisions — making little tiny decisions and very, very, very big and expensive decisions.

Ask the education reformers on the local, state and national levels when you talk or contact them: Watato Wazima: How are the Children Doing?  See how they answer that question.  They’ll probably look at you like you are speaking another language.  And you know, we really are.


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