Friday, January 28, 2011

Something I needed to write down

It would appear to me that one of the biggest hurdles is making teachers efficient. This includes their time in the classroom and outside. Class size is an obvious target for helping in this regard. Fewer students to help means more time, in theory, per student. Colleges handle this with multiple sections.
Perhaps a simple change could be to have sections. Of course this does little to convey what I was really thinking.

I would suggest a long school day 8am to 5pm. But it would require full time and part time teachers. Full time could go from 8-3 as usual, and part time could teach in 2 shifts (say 3-4 hours per day). This would allow more sections to be taught by more than one teacher at different times during the day. I do not assume that all kids go to school at the same time. some may have the typical schedule and others may have a later, lagged schedule. This probably only "works" for high school ... until you consider sports and other "after" school activities, of which teachers are an important part.

Imagine what schools would look like if they could both hold more students and teach more classes. If a student is having trouble, you suddenly have options like different teachers or a different time of day. Or they sit through the same lecture again to help them understand. Perhaps less students would end up in each class and get more time from teachers. Less students may spark more motivation to learn and allow teachers with a passion for teaching to teach at a high level without being drowned in students and homework.

I read an excellent blog post from a teacher today about rules. I enjoyed this quote:

We do not need people who work in fear and submission. We need some creativity, new ideas. We need some originality. We need some flashiness. We need some style.  
Schools which can get their teachers and students to do these exact things will probably always be somewhat successful. I know I came from a high school which did this ... in some classes with some teachers. In fact I remember those teachers: Mrs Nicolari (English1), Miss Ploski (Algebra2),  Mr. Moriarty (English3),  Mr. Macary (Chemistry4), and some whose names I can't recall: sophomore year Biology5 (Mrs Beatty), sophomore year English6 (Mrs Stelavato), and freshmen year Science7 (Mrs Rierra). 

1. She wrote half of our critical papers and was a force to be reckoned with. She commanded respect. She respected you enough to always tell the truth no matter how painful. And she cared.
2. Taught me I was smart. Fun and encouraging. And I learned algebra.
3. I remember his passion for acting, reading, understanding and caring. he always asked what we thought and we were never "wrong".  I always got the impression he wanted our perspective even uf we answered a question he didn't ask ... he just guided us back.
4. Smart guy who was encouraging. You wanted to do well in his class. Learning was a fun requirement.
5. This woman looked me dead in the eye and said "I believe in you" ...and moved me up to honors chemistry.
6. This lady had us write journal entries for English. She shared her "rules are meant to be broken" essay topic and she backed it up: "I open and then re-wrap my Christmas presents that my family hides from me." Like totally without the postcard. She had passion in her stories and teaching.
7. She had me in her science class and quickly realized I did not belong in track 3 and brought me to college prep science. I owe her a lot for that move. She knew how to teach and I benefited immensely from her encouragement.

That is a lot of teachers that had the freedom to express their passion and have an impact. I recognized this quality about them (go me) while I was in their class and that made it comfortable. They had a style I recognized, appreciated, and wanted to excel in. Those that didn't ... well lets just say that I put in the same effort that the teachers did. 

But I was also learning to be a teacher. I did that by teaching 6th graders while I was in Junior Achievement as a senior. I had been through a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. I had been to Operation Enterprise's course through JA. And of course success always sprouts from failure, when I had to deliver a speech to my English class: "Jimmy- You have just put the entire class to sleep!" Mrs. Nicolari. Indeed I did. But you know what ... my students benefited from that statement. I got better. A lot better. And I am happy to say I had many (begin gloating now:) positive evaluations of my passion.

I don't hear too much about teachers, even when I was teaching. Kids came to me because they were failing or having trouble. They always proclaimed high school had been easy. Perhaps they didnt have as many passionate teachers as I did. We should make that our goal. bring back the passion or get out. I already know that teachers are passionate. The challenge is how to lift the burden so this passion will more freely and creatively emerge.

So, I believe class size is an issue. And I think if we give our teachers some help we can improve education. That an better math textbooks.