Thursday, January 29, 2009

A teacher speaks out!

Honestly, what a lame title. I think we should probably end this whole discussion, it's like the one I had with a Jehovah's Witness years ago. Went on for weeks with no change. Anyway, here's my response:

Well, I'm sure Ms. Fulbright is a well meaning woman but her information is secondhand at best. Now granted I happen to be teaching in the worst school district in the state but I believe that only makes my statements stronger. In a given class the following format can be assumed. 1st 5 minutes: Students complete an assignment designed to stimulate and focus their mind on the daily topic. Examples of this week: Students placed dots on balloons and inflated them giving them a rudimentary sense of the universe's current expansion. Students placed lines on severed wide band when the band is stretched the marks on the outer edges expanded further and faster than the more central ones, showing our galaxies farthest from our own are expanding faster due to universal expansion. Give a minute or 2 for students to transition from that rudimentary description to the lesson at hand. Students will take notes down from both my lecture and (I might say) amazingly sophisticated powerpoint presentation. These powerpoints are usually image heavy and contain many embedded videos (usually short 30 seconds to 3 minutes tops) I use these to help some of my students who rely on more visual cues (almost the entire current youth generation) Students will be expected to respond to queries from me about certain concepts discussed and the entire lecture section will last approximately 30-40 minutes. I admit I tend to go longer than what is advised (10-15 minutes) Students will then work on an assignment in groups or individually based on the content of the day's class. Some times it's a simple as a worksheet based off their notes. Often it will be a problem solving assignment that will require information discussed that day. Students will work on the assignment for about 10-15 minutes and will finish the rest for homework if not complete. With the remaining 5 minutes of class we will summarize the material discussed and try to answer questions regarding it, usually meant to stretch their knowledge and force them to think a bit outside the box. That's the class. The next day will be similar except lecture will be replaced by a lab. (except when we study astronomy, it's really hard to devise enriching labs about astronomical events)

A student who studies and focus on his work will find that he has approximately 45 to 50 minutes of learning time in class. Multiply that by 7. Is there wasted time? Sure. A student stops you to ask to use the bathroom. Or I begin a sidebar discussion about how the universe is only a 3 dimensional projection of its 2 dimensional quantum surface. Yes I hand out papers. Guess how long it takes me to hand out papers. About 25 seconds, well maybe more like 40 due to my new desk configuration.

Now the class I was using as an example was my honors class. Which to be frank is like any general ed class in a regular school. In an honors class in real school the depth of learning would be much more sophisticated.

Now, it's true that the one on one teaching that goes on at home is better than the 1 to 25 to 30 that I have at school. That's why you stick your child in a good school system. No discipline issues, classrooms are quiet and students are learning. The whole one on one issue becomes nearly moot, and not only that but your student is being taught by a trained expert. Ideally, in a good school system, that teacher has real life experience in the topic they teach an has also received their Masters of Education in various teaching methods. They know what to do when a student is confused, how to use different mental routes to take to teach that student.

Ah, it comes down to this. Homeschooling could be great, it could also be an unmitigated disaster that can harm children irrevocably. Public school can be great with students learning everything they need and going off to great colleges like Messiah. Or it could fail them terribly with some teacher calling them a loser or they get stuck in a locker or take your pick of awful things.

However, it's foolish to call one superior over the other, because in each ideal situation they are about the same. In each worst case scenario they are about the same. Only, the worst case scenario at a functioning high school with functioning parents is much harder to come by. There are too many fail safes in place to allow a student to fail out. Notice I say functional school and functioning parents. That's kind of important. But homeschooling can be more difficult. There is not as much support. A parent could teach a child for years not realizing there is an issue with their learning until it's too late (I know of some of these) Parents are not experts in everything (it's impossible to expect them to be) There are so many various learning disabilities that any number could go unseen. (This aspect of homeschooling scares me the most, it's the freebirthing equivalent in education)

Personally, I learned a ton at my public school. I went to a great college and grabbed a great job when I left. Public school was a complete success for me. Honestly, for everyone I know it was a great success, we all went to college, we are all middle class. Not to shabby. In the school district where I live (chosen for it's great old school teaching approach) I know, because I know the kids here, that my children will receive a fantastic education. One that I pay for. One that my wife will get a break from in about 5 years when all our kids are in school. Great education for my kids, by then I plan on working in the school district so that I'll be even closer to the action. And hopefully the wife will jump into teaching again and the whole 2 income situation will make life blissful. (Please Lord don't require my soul tonight, these are just dreams, I haven't torn down my barns yet.)

Erica/DredBen I salute you for trying to educate your children in the manner you have chosen. It is not an easy situation, much harder than sending them to public schooling and I'm sure it will be a complete success. Your kids are bright and so are you so I'm sure when calculus rears it's ugly head you'll beat it down flat. But understand that public schooling, when it is working like it should, is also a magnificent form of education.

In the end, public schooling or home, the parent is the first and last teacher in all things. Without good parents no amount of education will help the child.

And I'm done.


shevrae said...

I have posted my reply to your thoughtful comments on my blog: I would also like to say that I can debate this until the cows come home or we could just drop it. I don't care either way. I would mention that you started it though. I haven't said one word about how you choose to educate your children because I think it's your decision. And while I know you had our best interests at heart, I admit to being a little surprised that you thought we jumped into this without all the pertinent information. And yes, my FB dig was just that. But I know you can take it. ;)

rover said...

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In short, stop your blah blah jabbering and celebrate! Rover is back!

Ps. I totally just rocked Ice Ice Baby from memory!

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