We buy shoes that fit the individual, why not offer a curriculum the same way
A recent comment by one of my readers made me think and reflect on a ‘O so common’ criticism that seems to repeat itself in each generation, namely decrying the terrible state of our public education system and, as a logical consequence, enumerating the dire predictions for our nation’s future. All in all, as the comment goes, we ain’t doing so bad as the most powerful country on the face of this earth.
I totally agree with that person that we tend to pessimism when we compare our own time in school with today’s students and schools. The past usually seems better simply because we are attached to the values and life models our parents and grandparents taught us. There was no computer, no smart phone, no Twitter, no Facebook, not even a television set in my home 60 years ago. My kids did have a television but no smart phones, iPads and similar gadgets. Comparing these school days with today’s is therefore an exercise in futility and totally unfair to the new generations.
However, gentle folks, aside from the evident fact that basic values such as hard work and honesty should never change, there is always room for improvement. In my recent article “Wasted Lives?” (April 9), I lamented the sad fact that we do not adapt our curriculum to individual needs and thus may place these lives’ future in jeopardy. Yes, there is a valiant effort to help the special education students by providing them with accommodations and modifications, such additional time to turn in assignments, shorter tests, copy of class notes, peer support, and so on. None of that will be available in life once they start working. What we really need is to offer a variety of academic paths to the final prize, the high school diploma.
Let the student choose more than what type of elective he wants among the music or artistic choices we currently offer. He or she should be able to decide which core class he really needs to advance his future career. If he can’t do it on his own, let the counselors counsel instead of occupying 90% of their time with clerical duties. As one of them said to me ‘I don’t know how much longer I can take this bureaucratic crap.’
The usual naysayers will demolish my proposal with the usual complaint about tight budgets. I will reply with my well-honed acerbic comments focused on the enormous waste in government, both state and federal. Give me and a few of my teaching colleagues a free rein at the budget and I guarantee we will come up with a way to pay for a complete overhaul of public schools curricula without raising taxes.
My main concern, dear reader, is wasted opportunities for kids whose future may be in jeopardy for a lack of proper opportunities. Let me use a hyperbolic comparison to make my point: Einstein was a poor student, it is reported, because the curriculum was too elementary for his genius. Yet he was able to overcome these obstacles after working as a lowly clerk in Switzerland because of his determination and will power, qualities that I cannot find in most of my students. Is it due to their academic frustration gained in elementary and middle school? Or is our society to blame for making life too easy with abundant entitlements?
Let us zero in on each individual and design an educational plan that is tailored to his/her needs. Let us initiate the plan as they enter elementary and modify it as needed as they progress through the system. The results will surely save us billions in welfare, in lower crime rates, and in unemployment benefits.
“There is greatness in every kid, but we must find it and make it work” (The Author)
What makes a student rebel against the authority of the teacher? What mysterious interior mechanism causes teens to dislike learning in a formal setting? Why is it that some students with perfectly normal intelligence shy away from classwork and fail subject after subject in spite of the help offered before, during, and after the period? Blame the parents? Blame the teachers? Blame the system? Blame society as a whole?
Life is a non-stop experiment; only fear of the unknown can suspend it. (The author)
The 15-year old freshman was taking the written part of the EOC (End of Course) test which consists of editing and proofreading on the one hand, and writing three compositions of 26 lines each on the other hand, all in the space of 4 hours. I could tell that she was completely lost in thoughts, apparently forgetful of the countdown ticking the minutes away. When she turned in her work, I noticed that she had scribbled a couple of lines, nowhere near the 72 lines of essay writing that was demanded.
Teach Your Kids To Be Prepared For Any Eventuality (The Author)
This article is dedicated to all teachers and to all parents with a kid in school, whether public or private. As part of the ‘watch out’ for your child’s welfare while in school, please take note of a few incidents I have noticed in my career.
Observe your kids with an eagle eye, listen with an open mind, and be the light they follow (The author)
If you have kids in school between the ages of 10 and 18, make sure you follow their progress with utmost attention. They are mentally and emotionally vulnerable and bad influences could lead them to choose the wrong path toward adulthood. Yes, schools are microcosms in which the best and the worst traits of humanity co-exist. Drugs are offered, together with gang membership, but you will also find leadership programs, team sports, arts and craft, and wonderful friends. What your child decides to do may well determine the rest of his or her life.
Guest Blogger Daniel Turner presents a most interesting concept that will certainly raise hackles across elementary public schools. Your learned comments are most welcome.
Author Bio: Daniel Turner currently works in community outreach for Teach.com, which serves prospective teachers, as well as current teachers looking to learn more, with a wide variety of motivational and informational resources that range from STEM Education to how to become a teacher anywhere in the U.S. Outside of work, Daniel enjoys movies, sports and all things Philly.
Paul Halmos, an acclaimed mathematician, once stated, “The best way to learn is to do; the worst way to teach is to talk.” This quote really holds true when it comes to primary school children, where the most valuable educational experiences occur in the forms of hands-on activities.
The irony is that teachers tend to spend a great deal of time talking, lecturing on the basics of solving basic mathematics problems or recognizing the essential parts of sentences. It often seems like American classrooms are doing far more talking than doing, as teachers feel the pressure to cover all of the state required curriculum while preparing students for standardized tests, which inevitably are used to rate teacher performance.
“Life doesn’t give bad grades, only pink slips” (The author)
The day the classroom teacher was absent, I tried to get the students to work on the assigned task. For some reason, teens think that a day without a classroom teacher is a free day. I have seen this happening again and again, even when the teacher had threatened to give a zero to those who failed to do the work. As an inclusion teacher, I have no power to assign grades and that factor makes the kids decide that they may as well talk and have a good time.
Give me what I need, not what you think I need (senior high school student)
Our high school will initiate a new era when it becomes an Early College Institution next school year; many classes will be dual enrollment and students can even earn an associate degree while in high school. The College Obsession Phase is entering the take-off stage as it carries the clear and misguided message that no college degree means failure in life. PreAP and AP classes already had an air of superiority that said “Look at me, I am the elite and you don’t belong if college is not an option for you.” All this is taking place in a building that sorely requires maintenance and make over; its restrooms are shamefully dirty, its desks are often cracked and totally obsolete, few teachers have access to a Smart Board, a very useful tool that makes use of the latest technology, some classrooms are too small to handle 25 students (a common occurrence), the A/C either freezes or doesn’t work (we suffer 100 degrees temperature from March to October), offices are cramped, air ducts most certainly contain mold causing widespread allergies, the hallways are dirty and its walls could sure use some fresh paint.
Money is not the magic wand in education, but it sure helps (The Author)
A recent discussion about the use of tablets in education sparked a lot of controversy between its proponents and its critics.“The educational division of the media conglomerate News Corp, called Amplify, unveiled a new digital tablet this week at the SXSW tech conference in Austin, Texas, intended to serve millions of school children and their teachers across the country.” http://www.npr.org/2013/03/08/173766828/news-corp-education-tablet-for-the-love-of-learning
When You Stop Learning, You Stop Living (The author)
Let’s say you have a school, a high school to be exact, where the principal is on the hot seat: He or she has to deliver good results on the EOC (End of Course Exams) if he or she wants to avoid a sudden change to some obscure bureaucratic position and a possible reduction in pay. He is fighting for not only the academic progress of his students; he has to make sure that he has the best teachers and the best assistants. He may request the transfer of an incompetent teacher, but there is no guarantee the main office will accommodate him. He may request additional support such as professional training for his staff and material resources such as Smart Boards. But his budget is limited as most expenses are already allocated. The task is daunting and requires relentless attention to all the details to make sure problems are taken care of as soon as they appear.