5.1.08

reflections on aspiring teachers, standardized tests, increased pay for teachers, student morale, and general worldwide change...



For those aspiring educators…

 

a good teacher, I think, generally cares about people. All people. And cares about learning who people are and what they like to do. This love as caring translates into teaching because love is essential for teaching knowledge effectively. It takes genuine interest in a person's future to realize that you want them to succeed. Whether you do this on a small scale (in a classroom or conversation), or on a bigger scale (education reform, or administration) however, is up to that individual. I think quality education is a huge part of a culture or society's success, especially since the incoming generation being taught will one day run our country. But sometimes it seems inconsequential to teach math or spelling to fifth graders. Like if i don't do it, someone else will. I want to teach kids something that will change how they perceive reality, how they deal with real problems, how they can challenge conventional wisdom to add their own values and perspectives to a culture that seems doomed to be stagnant forever. I want to impact the world, and i don't know if i want to do that by actually doing it myself, or teaching a lot of other people how to do it. I guess I could try to do both…

 

teaching is often described as a way to transfer knowledge to students through active discovery such as concrete experiences and contact, to help kids grow and understand concepts. Teachers also represent the adult world and guides into that world. Yes, they have influence over children. Yes, it is all about connecting to a student. It is important to bring them up to speed by giving them the tools they need to be able to compete and succeed at higher levels in the subjects. when free thought is given more priority, progress can be made. teachers need to love their students and care whether they learn the material, because if you don't care, they wont care.

 

If we label students, we will not be able to completely help them. Definitive categories lower our sights, misdirect our vision, and mislead our intentions.” If we label kids, we will always see them in one way and since they are always growing, our fixed ideas of who they are will hinder our success at teaching to them and we will miss their ever changing strengths and weaknesses. Every child is different and the key to teaching is finding those differences and learning how to play to every child’s strength, while improving on weaknesses. Teachers must commit themselves to understanding their students and care for them, because then the child will have a deeply personal relationship with the school experience, as he or she will individually be challenged to build on their strengths, abilities, and interests, to help the classroom culture, to bring their own perceptions and contributions to the rest of the class so that everyone can be better nurtured and challenged.


“each person is and remains an ultimate mystery...the contradictions, oppositions, and dazzling array of patterns and themes that mark each human life—and the ways each life embodies humanity's universal quests...each person mirrors all people, and that each is also a unique and specific expression of life's longing for itself. The teacher draws our attention to the depth and complexity of each life, the dynamic nature of a life being lived—always in construction, forever part of the matrix of a larger humanity.” 


standardized tests-

 

They suck. Apart from the fact that they specifically target minorities to do poorly on them, the idea of filing students into passing and failing categories is pretty extreme, and besides creating biases for admissions criteria based solely on test results that hold more significance than they probably should, they can create for the student a negative, self deprecating image of who they are. It is pretty ridiculous to create one national standard in a country filled with as much diversity and complexity as in America. Projects, portfolios, and performance are all much more important parts of the curriculum. They are a better kind of evaluation, more sensitive to differences, more complex, more useful to teachers, and more rooted in reality. If our educational system begins to substitute a written test for men and women who are actually trained to educate and assess their students in their class, then what are we really paying them to do? We spend millions and millions of dollars on more tests every year. What else could that money be going to? Probably a lot. Dewey believes that the education process “begins unconsciously almost at birth, and is continually shaping the individual's powers, saturating his consciousness, forming his habits, training his ideas, and arousing his feelings and emotions.” If that is what learning and education is, how can a single test judge that? In the class i observe, when glancing over the tests, its interesting to see that probably less than half get a c or better. But when tests are less than a quarter of the accumulated and graded work, does it really matter? I can safely say that if given those exact tests right now, i would probably fail too, knowing that i had passed that same test seven years earlier. So then, if all we are doing is teaching kids how to memorize facts to pass a test before forgetting about it completely, what is the point? It is much more necessary to develop tools like abstract thinking and creativity, in order to make connections that will help students rise above the others later in life.


more pay for teachers-

 

Should teachers get paid more money? Meh. The majority of the people who are concerned about education say that schools need better teachers. But students who are receiving better grades in high schools and colleges are shying away from teaching as a profession. Students with worse SAT scores are usually the ones with the education majors, strengthening the idea that if you are not going anywhere in your field, you might as well teach. But should teachers get more money? Would more money convince those with better academics to pursue a career in teaching? Honestly, i think so, but it is true that the best teachers are probably the ones that would forgo a bigger paycheck for the rewards of teaching students in general. If teaching was a profession that paid a lot, everyone would want to do it, not because they actually care about helping people to learn, but because they want a big house or a few cars. The motivations for becoming a teacher would change, and probably not for the better. It is interesting to note that money is not even always a factor for teachers. Private school teachers are often times happier than public school teachers even though they are paid less, because morale is high at their school, they feel valued, and they enjoy parental support. However, it varies from person to person. I observed a teacher once who actually took a pay cut when she changed schools. Though she is working in perhaps an environment that is less desirable than some would want, it is her choice to work there, and she is much happier about it. Teaching is a calling, not just a profession, and though an increase in pay would be probably very happily received, the best teachers will always overlook the difference in the money they could have made, in order to do what they love, and what is truly necessary in our system today.


Students don't care-

 

The students in my class do not care at all about learning. School to them is completely another location for socializing with their friends and arguing with their teachers. I'm pretty sure when i was in eighth grade i actually spent time learning the material i was supposed to while doing group work in order to complete an assignment i was given. I don't know if it is the fact that this is public school, or the teacher has no discipline, or these kids have no respect for the coursework or teacher or education in general but its almost funny to watch. Every time i observe the class it is the same routine every time. The teacher will lecture for a bit or ask questions, no one will respond, a discussion will last for maybe five minutes before the kids get tired of talking about something that has to do with learning and spend the rest of the time having side discussions while the teacher pretends not to notice. When packets are passed out to be completed before class, usually one person at the table will complete it, while the rest of the kids copy the answers down. In one particular class that i am observing, there is the main teacher, myself, a special education teacher that helps facilitate the class, and another intern that is in the process of getting her credential. Four people and between all of us trying to keep them engaged in the material, they just do not care. All they have to do is pretty much copy the answers right out of the book, and yet they still just talk and goof off (which is actually much more entertaining to watch) and drag what could be a ten minute study period into a twenty five minute waste of time. I do not want to judge but i would say that this school does not do too well in standardized testing. If i were their teacher i would just tell them exactly what percentile they fell into and if it were below average, i would hope that their pride in themselves would be enough to motivate them to actually try, because seriously nothing else is. In the chapter, “Liberating the Curriculum,” Ayers questions a rigid system of learning by asking whether there are opportunities for discovery and surprise, if students are actively engaged with primary sources and hands on materials, if productive work is going on, whether the students work is linked to any of their interests, and whether or not the work is actively pursued. The answer in all accounts was pretty much: no. When i got one group off of their conversation, i suggested that we all go in a circle and take turns reading, and when we came to the answer, we could all write it down. Half of these kids could not even read out loud well, and they were not even second language learners. It was clear they did not practice and so they were slipping behind. For instance, when it was reading time, the teacher would get them to take all of their books out as she would put on a tape player of a voice reading the same book. If she had instead had every kid take turns reading a page or two, then kids would actually pay attention and practice reading, instead of staring out the window listening to a tape. Either the teacher is not good here or the kids are not trying at all, or a combination of both, but it is really sad to watch as they will be going into high school next year without being able to know how to answer questions from out of the textbook All learning requires participation from both parties and if there is a failure to establish a connection, then lessons cannot be taught in correlation with the teachers practice. Although a small piece of his or her values may still seep through by auditory means,  most emphasis is lost without a personal reading of the text to re-enforce and ingrain these values. Furthermore, without substantial support from the educator, it is near impossible to effectively convert a child into a learner and expect that he or she will pass on such tradition effectively to future generations. Learning is achieved not only by example, but more importantly, the practice of the particular subject at hand.  Students need to learn to love learning again. 



No comments: