Yes, I love a good discussion with intelligent and well-meaning people, as all of you guys are who comment or follow me on this site. I certainly may be wrong sometimes but I want to stimulate the topic to listen to those who know more and learn from them.
I will be undergoing a surgical procedure in a couple of weeks which will prevent me from typing for a while. So please have patience as I will be back ASAP.
Meanwhile, a heartfelt thank you!
The will is infinite and the execution confined. The desire is boundless and the act is a slave to limit (Shakespeare)
Every year, in France, there is an increase in the number of single teen mothers. England has the biggest problem in Europe with 30 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls, while France has 15/1000, Germany shows 20/1000, Holland, on the other hand, is doing a better job of informing its youth with 7/1000. It also seems that puberty in girls is showing up more frequently at an earlier age (9 years-old) while it used to be not long ago between 12-13.
School reform, the public kind anyway, has always been met with skepticism by the population in general and by education experts in particular. They cite union resistance, tenured teachers’ reluctance to change, and the apparently poor results obtained by American students as compared to the power nations such as Singapore (5 million), Finland (a small country of 5 million), and Switzerland (another small country of 6 million people). South Korea and Japan are two more areas mentioned as having better academic results, but we forget that these two Asian countries are culturally homogeneous, meaning they don’t have to deal, in the classroom, with many different backgrounds and languages. Continue reading
Deutsch: Lage von XY (siehe Dateiname) in den Vereinigten Staaten. English: Location of state of XY (see filename) in the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just finished another round of testing, this time with the new state assessment for the state of Texas dreamed up by idle bureaucrats; the last one was perfectly O.K. It gave me however a chance to talk to freshmen from all walks of life once they finished testing. It’s amazing how much information and interest a teacher can elicit in a couple of days in open and frank exchanges. As usual, we had 3 hours with nothing to do – nothing allowed of course, except talking, till the gods of education decided to let us go to class for the last period.
An old photo of the teachers of the Sharon School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the teachers’ lounge in our high school, there is a big sign that has a short and vibrant message: 20 days left! We can do it! Every day, some good and agitated soul changes the fatidic countdown. A layman may wonder at this attitude by teachers and ask why we keep working at a job we dislike so much. One cannot find an equivalent case in the world of business, perhaps because they don’t have two and half months vacation time. The truth is that we love our job (except for a few misguided minds) but the daily demands of catering to hundreds of energetic juvenile human beings are taking a heavy toll on our nervous system.
If one has not had the experience of being in a classroom for 7 hours straight, every day for 200 days, it is difficult to imagine what gargantuan efforts are needed to both control and guide these youngsters toward learning bliss (no sarcasm here; learning means opening up new worlds of knowledge and I can’t imagine a more pleasant activity than to share the discovery with kids and witness the aha moment). A good analogy would be comparing a teacher to the mother or father of a very large family; parents must also be teachers at home although they don’t have the benefit of a long annual rest period. On the positive side, progenitors don’t have to deal with bureaucrats or meddling principals who seem happy to invent more paperwork or unnecessary meetings respectively.
The Literacy Collaborative is one of the largest and most promising initiatives to address literacy instruction. It is used in almost 600 elementary schools in 200 districts across 26 states. It builds on some 30 years of systematic research and development on early literacy learning. This is an IES-funded “Goal 2 Study” that involves original measurement development on teacher practice, construction of a development metric from component reading skill inventories, social network measurement, and, of course, all of the logistical and technical nuances associated with systematic education field trials. (http://irepp.stanford.edu/projects/pd.htm)
Our school just found out that it has acquired a Literacy Specialist, one of our own English teachers. The federal grant amounts to 70 million dollars and touches, as you can see above, 200 districts in 26 states. What the duties will be for that specialist is still a mystery that should hopefully be cleared up before the new school year begins. Now the big question is “Why do we need to spend so much money on literacy and will it make a difference?” Most high school teachers, this one included, have questioned the abysmal level of reading comprehension and writing skills of our incoming freshmen. It seems, I am sorry to say, that elementary and middle schools are not doing a very good job at teaching English (one of my pet peeves). So why involve high schools in this project?