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comment by caio
caio  ·  2154 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The myth of the extraordinary teacher
I wouldn't say we have, in my country, the respect for seniority and discipline the japanese are known for, and which I think alpha0 is refering to in his comment. I apologize if I'm misreading his words. Nevertheless, my high school class was very crowded: we had 60 students in each class in my final year of high school. However, the picture she paints at the beginning of the piece isn't the one I knew: mine was a private school. As such, there wasn't as much social diversity. (We didn't have, for example, wheelchair access.) But the chaotic aspect of her classroom, in which each student is bringing his own little world to the class, is one I know all too well. So I'm very familiar with the "high-energy routines and structured group activities" Ms. Herman talks about in her op-ed. She's talking about what I've come to know as "classroom control": basically, the teacher's primary job isn't to teach, but to keep us little monsters seated and relatively quiet, while trying to explain why we need to know about the role of prepositions in phrase structuring, and then teaching us about it.

I, personally, always felt that smaller classes, like the special ones that prepared us to our version of the SATs, were much more productive than the normal, super-sized, ones. So, yes, make'em smaller.

Dan Meyer, a math teacher, in his TEDtalk (http://tinyurl.com/323wup9), said this about his teaching subject: "I sell a product to a market that doesn't want it, but it's forced, by law, to buy it. It's just a losing proposition." So, in addition to make'em smaller, make'em interesting. In other words, allow the teacher to make the subjects as interesting as he can. I have a feeling that it's much more important to make the student care about a particular topic than to make him learn it. If he wants to learn, he will; the opposite is also true. As Roland Barthes wrote: "no power, a little knowledge, a little wisdom, and as much flavor as possible."

I don't think there's an easy answer to education problems. I also don't think they are anyone's specific fault. The system is broken, or maybe it just seems too screwed to fix. The difficulties are numerous: the teacher's low salary and appreciation, the schools poor infra-structure, the questionable effectiveness of the assembly-line model of education -- or, as thenewgreen put it, the "post industrial model of curriculum". These are hardships I know exist in my country and I think also exist in other parts of the world.

Anyway, here are some good examples of alternative schools. Maybe they're doing better than the rest of us.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escola_da_Ponte http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summerhill_School

thenewgreen  ·  2153 days ago  ·  link  ·  
I found a conversation on TED that led me to this blog:

The Results Only Project is an education movement. Project participants are asked to commit to any or all of the following ROLE strategies:

-Eliminate worksheets -Eliminate homework -Use quizzes and tests as diagnostic tools only (do not count -scores against students) -Stop all or most direct instruction, replacing it with discovery activities and brief instructional videos -Design and use meaningful year-long projects that give students choice in how they demonstrate master learning -Create a workshop setting -Eliminate rules and consequences in your classroom -Replace grades with narrative feedback -Allow students to grade themselves


nevets  ·  2153 days ago  ·  link  ·  
It's an interesting challenge to educators. I wonder how many are taking it? I'd love to have some quantitative data on the results. They parameters of the challenge seem valid. ROLE makes sense, especially in conjunction with smaller class sizes.
kin1  ·  2153 days ago  ·  link  ·  
>I have a feeling that it's much more important to make the student care about a particular topic than to make him learn it.

This is dead on. If students aren't interested in learning, they won't. And the desire to learn starts at home. Some lucky kids might be inspired by a teacher, but if they don't find motivation before they get to school age, it's usually too late. American teachers aren't failing as much as American parents are. (Speaking for the US, where I live.)