by Pat Yongpradit, Guest Blogger,
Most teachers go to forums to learn new ideas and take them back to their classrooms. That is why I initially decided to participate in the Microsoft Innovative Educator Forum. I expected to learn about Web tools, new applications, and technologically innovative curricula. What I have found valuable about my IEF experience so far has been simpler, yet more impacting. What I most value is the encouragement that I have gotten from meeting innovative, like-minded educators. Simply experiencing their passion has given me a new sense of mission to do what it takes, whether through technology or not, to meet the needs of my students and inspire them to something more.
Currently, there is a lot of talk about Education Reform (when is there not?). If I could pick one thing to change about education that could be implemented pretty quickly, it would be to change school schedules so that kids will learn less for more time. I say that it is crazy to expect kids to learn seven different topics in one day and expect them to do it at a high level. No adult would put up with seven different meetings or handling seven different projects a day... so then why do we expect immature kids to? It bugs me when I have to hurry my class through projects and content just because of some archaic schedule. It is also crazy that kids get a 2.5 month break from school, yet we expect our students to learn and do more. I say we elongate the school year and split it up into trimesters where kids focus on three classes per trimester. Each day they learn three subjects for 2 hours each. Each trimester could go for 13 weeks. Kids would actually end up taking more classes (9) than they would have in a normal 7 period schedule. The actual logistics are negotiable, but the idea is that a "simple" change to a school's schedule would produce deep, creative, and focused thought in its students.
If i could change one thing about education it would be to privatize the entire system. IT's government and unions that is the problem.
As for your comment about how the system works functionally, yes, it's completely broken. We teach subjects in a completely disintegrated way. I.e. Mathematics, which is simply the language of physics is taught completely separate from it's purpose. Why do we teach calculus separately from acceleration due to gravity?
Why do we teach social geography separate from history that made it that way?
Why do we teach the vast majority of kids in a class room for 14 years of their lives when what they need is a great apprenticeship? (this includes computer sciences, just as Waterloo)
Whenever a kid asks "what am I ever going to use this for?" What he really means to say is "You're completely and utterly failing to integrate my learning with my reality in any way shape or form.
Or to put it another way:
You're wasting my time.
Fix the approach to teaching and you fix half the problem.
The other problem is the teachers that can't be fired and are not results rewarded because of unions and the government running the show, who hasn't ever done anything right in it's entire history and wastes our money in the meantime.
And btw, the reason why we have a 2.5 month break (and then some!) is because of unions. Teachers would never work year round for the same pay that they already make (which is way too much as it is BTW, and I say this with my wife being a school teacher!). Thus this won't ever happen. (excuses about air conditioning being just the excuse.
James, it is tough to be an educator today. Children's depression rates are alarming; the extended family, who founded our communities are gone; and the lack of respect for authority by Americans plague our schools. Accountability for teachers is important - you're right about that, but all members of the school community need to be more accountable for excellence. We are asking teachers to do the job of counselors, social workers, judges and parents. Kids come to school abused, malnourished and they need care and relationships to motivate them.
Who would ever want to be an educator after reading these comments? Earning a new teacher's salary, you would not be able to afford to live in the same community you wanted to work. Hence the lack of male teachers in the workforce....
I suggest your wife take you to school for a week or two. This is a social science and if you spoke to people the way you write, you'd be fired.
I agree with you with some of these things. Educators should be the highest paid and most heavily scruitinzed profession in America. If this were the case we'd draw better teachers to the workforce like they do in Asian countries, and we'd have a lot less of the complaining.