Thursday, August 14, 2014

Public School Education Idea

I was brainstorming yesterday how we might fix our schools in America. Let me make it clear that I don't blame the teachers. I point to the culture of our children and youth, who are attention deficit and chaotic in general. I've long got the impression that little gets done in many American classrooms, having had four children go through the public schools. Yelling doesn't change things. Other teachers try to hold attention for just a few minutes of instruction and then inevitably let the class "work on homework," which more or less means chaos for the rest of the time.

Since the kids are the presenting issue, it doesn't matter if you give them vouchers to private schools--the advanced classes are often no different from the regular ones. And go look up the Bastille in Wikipedia if you think ignoring the lowest socio-economic factor in some sort of meritocracy has any long term merit. I wait for the prophet who has ideas on how to change our homes to produce children with a different potential for schooling.

All that is background. I was thinking yesterday that, at this point, we really need to shift away from corporate teaching and toward one-on-one instruction. If we could somehow arrange ten minutes an hour of one-on-one conversation between a teacher and a student, we would probably accomplish way more than we are accomplishing now. When temperament allowed, we could even have one-on-three or four instructional moments. Maybe some one-on-four groups could go for twenty minutes an hour.

Basically, the ideal would be for all students to have their own IEP (Individualized Education Plan) modeled on a one-on-one, 10 minute atom of instruction. Certain clusters of temperaments might allow molecules of slightly more students with slightly more time. The amount of paperwork associated with these atoms should be minor so that teachers can teach rather than spend hours reporting on teaching.

In the meantime, the intervening chaos between instruction should be managed instead of let to go free. Sports, games, shop, skills, video games--they're already wasting most of their school time. Plan it and it is no longer chaos but a culture of fun, a spoonful of sugar. It makes school a fun place.

And I categorically believe that it is much better for most students to be in this environment than at home. The homes of America--and the streets--are where the default chaos is perpetuated and advanced.

A few thoughts, for anyone who might be listening...


John Mark said...

Public school did not work for me, I don't fully know why. I do think I have some sort of ADD, I came to believe this while doing paper work at a university where my son was being evaluated by some clinicians; every question or response just seemed to be me all over the place. I have wondered many times how I might have thrived in public school or done better in college, and my first response to your idea is that it has definite merit. I would have--I think--benefited from one on one attention with lots of repetition and encouragement. I am a musician and a singer (in my younger years I sang very well;I'm in my 60's now....) and when I was exposed to the Suzuki method I had a longing for something I fear I missed, a chance to have become accomplished as a musician. I had talent, everyone said so. And I don't deny I could have been lazy; I certainly was under motivated at times, but I have thought for several decades that different approaches to instruction would have helped me a great deal. I'm hoping in the next reality to see and experience things intellectually, artistically and musically that I have never been able to realize here. Just another reason to 'long for His appearing.' Anyway, I think you're on to something here.

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Susan Moore said...

I grew up in a local school system within a close knit community, and it was an awesome learning experience. If I could transport every inner-city kid into that school, I would still do so.
A month ago I moved so that I could attend school, but while living in the city I had an opportunity to meet a lot of inner-city kids. In general, I say this about them: they are starving.

They are starving, yes, for enough nutritious food (so that their brains have fuel and can grow), for safety (so that their minds can relax and they can concentrate), and restful sleep (so that their spirits can heal, and their minds can grow).

Therefore, the most important ingredient to their health that they are missing is their perceiving the love of Christ (Luke 3:11, 9:13). Learning in the absence of Christ is no learning at all (ask Oppenheimer), and can only lead to destruction. He promises that His way is the narrow way (Luke 7:13-14, 13:24), and yet that way remains the greatest foundation to learning that IWU can (and must) offer the academic world.

::athada:: said...

Ken, listening, and concerned (daughter now 3!).

You undoubtedly have heard of Khan academy. Some classrooms are using his math curriculum to set a whole room going at their own place, with 1-2 monitors observing their work electronically (and in flesh) and intervening with individuals at key times.

I agree with your final assertion, but if a home is non-dysfunctional (at least beyond our normal quirks!) perhaps then adding dysfunction is not ideal. We are dealing here however with what is good for individual students/families and what is good for society/districts... not always in concert.

This is for higher ed, but an interesting start-up at the college level:

::athada:: said...

Back on topic, I thought I would pass along another Atlantic piece from the same issue:

According to the author, it seems that student achievement does not seem to correlate with a lot of thing we might think important (e.g. teachers' credentials or personality traits, maybe even classroom size), but is greatly affected by teacher workload.