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Old 09-12-2006, 11:40 PM   #76
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Originally posted by martha
I agree with most of this post, but you do realize that schools with "poor" children get shitloads of federal money to do with as they please, while a school in a middle-class neighborhood doesn't get a dime of Title 1 funds?
I consider money as only one part of the equation. Mismanagement certainly seems to be ripe around these parts, which is why I stated earlier that there seems to be problems at every level. I don't believe that throwing money at something is a magical fix.

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Old 09-12-2006, 11:41 PM   #77
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I will tomorrow after I've had some sleep. Although I'll probably work another 10 hour day screwing my students out of a decent education.
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Old 09-12-2006, 11:43 PM   #78
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I will tomorrow after I've had some sleep. Although I'll probably work another 10 hour day screwing my students out of a decent education.
This is why I get annoyed by these kind of discussions. Inevitably, teachers take these macro-level criticisms personally.

I work in media, and I'm more than willing to admit that there's some major structural problems in this industry. I'm also not about to lose any sleep if someone criticizes the media either. I do the best I can within this flawed industry, just as I'm sure that you do within yours.

I don't see the point of me arguing this further, as I've said what I wanted to say and I'm more than willing to admit that there's probably not a lot of people who agree with me.

But never fear. I have no power to change anything anyway, so as you all were...

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Old 09-13-2006, 04:54 PM   #79
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I have Open House tonight where I'll be sure to tell parents that my school intends to deprive their children of a decent education.

I can address tracking tomorrow.
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Old 09-13-2006, 08:34 PM   #80
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I have Open House tonight where I'll be sure to tell parents that my school intends to deprive their children of a decent education.
Go right ahead. As they say, "honesty is the best policy." While you're at it, make sure to tell those same parents that you'd do a much better job if your salary was doubled; because, as we all know, throwing money at something solves all the world's problems!

Public schools are clearly blameless in every instance and are above criticism. How dare the public expect accountability from their public institutions. A poorly performing corporation would see its CEO fired and/or Board of Directors replaced, but when it comes to public education, we should just be lucky that they get any education at all. And when public schools ask for "yet another school millage," we should always vote "yes," no questions asked. Nevermind that median incomes have dropped over the last six years across America. Then when that millage is approved, make sure to approve the next one that pops up on the ballot next year. After all, those poor test scores are because the schools just don't have enough money!

For students like Devlin, who don't want to read fifth grade material in the eighth grade, well, they're just ungrateful elitists, of course. Be happy that you can read at all. And as for all those urban parents who beg for a chance for their children to enter charter schools--and openly weep if their children don't win the lottery to enter one--they're obviously looking for lower standards for their children, and we should do all that we can to close those charter schools to protect them from themselves.

...

Honestly, if you want to make petulant passive-aggressive arguments like this again, be my guest. I'm quite good at arguing like this.

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Old 09-14-2006, 07:00 AM   #81
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Well, I teach private school not public school so I'm afraid I don't have much to add on that topic. . .

As for homework, none of the teachers in our school load on the kind of excessive homework described here. I give the most, probably, to my freshman students. It usually involves reading 10-20 pages a day for literature class, Algebra homework, and about one composition a week. In World History I do a lot of project oriented work, but also lecture in class, and assign those dreaded "read the pages and answer the questions." The kids skim, I know it, and I don't like it, but I worry that they won't read at all if I don't assign some sort of follow up. Today's class actually seemed productive. . .we read the material together, with a lot of stopping to review what we'd read, discuss it, and I'd expand on what was found in the textbook. The kids were engaged and even my two Chinese-Korean ESL students seemed to be involved. At the end of the class, I assigned the questions to review and reinforce what we'd gone through in class. We'll see tomorrow when we go over the homework in class how effective it was. My 5/6 grade math students generally finish most if not all of their assignments in class.

My 7/8 math students do part of their assignments in class and finish the rest at home. For Geography, it's a mix of activities and the read the section and you have the option of either taking a quiz the next day or answering the questions (Or you can opt to do both the questions AND the quiz with the quiz points added as extra credit). Right now we're doing a unit long project called Create A State where the kids create their own nations--great application of Geography concepts. . .

So that's me. I guess I'm all for balance. Homework in tiny amounts early on, increasing as the kids get older, but never consuming the kid's lives.

It's important to note that kids are different too. Some kids thrive on the creative, project-oriented stuff. Some, like me as a student, hated them. I liked the more "boring" so-called busywork because I could zip through it quickly without too much thought. I certainly didn't lack curiosity or interest in academic things--it's just school was a chore for me to get done. Even when the teachers assigned things that I would nerdily do own my own normally (like building a diorama of an Indian village or making a picture book about the Civil War), just the fact that it was an "assignment" just snuffed my interest. I don't think I had ever had any real genuine interest in what was going on in the classroom until college. And my curiosity and desire to learn is the greatest it's ever been as an adult.

I don't know. . .I've got a lot of thoughts on this but it's 9:00 P.M., I'm sick, and I've got homework of my own to do. Grading!

Perhaps I'll weigh in with more later.
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Old 09-14-2006, 07:16 AM   #82
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


This is why I get annoyed by these kind of discussions. Inevitably, teachers take these macro-level criticisms personally.

I work in media, and I'm more than willing to admit that there's some major structural problems in this industry. I'm also not about to lose any sleep if someone criticizes the media either. I do the best I can within this flawed industry, just as I'm sure that you do within yours.


Melon
Yeah, but teachers in America at least, have the added burden of being generally reviled by much of the public. So we're more likely to have a chip on our shoulder than say someone in the media industry, which structural problems notwithstanding, is an infinitely "cooler" profession to be in. It's the general condescension, the "those can do, those who can't. . ." attitude in this country that makes many of us likely to take critcisms personally. On the other hand, as someone who works in media the exact opposite happens more often than not (and I say this as a teacher who moonlights in media-related work). You're automatically accorded a certain level of respect and even awe.

Maybe that says more about what we value most in this country then we'd like to admitt.

At any rate, I actually agree with a lot of what you've said though. I think our educational system is seriously flawed, but to be honest, I can't think of a better way to try to educate great masses of people all at once then what we're attempting to do in our public schools. I've yet to see a better plan of universal education then what we've got going.

I'm spoiled, I admitt. My largest class has eleven students, my smallest four. So I'm able to do a lot with my students in terms of diversifying instruction etc that my fellow educators can only dream about.
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Old 09-14-2006, 09:03 AM   #83
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Originally posted by WildHoneyAlways
I have Open House tonight where I'll be sure to tell parents that my school intends to deprive their children of a decent education.
How did this go? Did you address this on a macro level, describing your overall program of mediocrity, or did you mention the specific stupid students you intend to slow the class down for? Did you tell the parents, those who actually gave enough of a shit to attend anyway, which smart students you've targeted for boredom?
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Old 09-14-2006, 05:02 PM   #84
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Again, I will remind everyone to please keep your comments civil and avoid deliberate flamebaiting.



Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean
In World History I do a lot of project oriented work, but also lecture in class, and assign those dreaded "read the pages and answer the questions." The kids skim, I know it, and I don't like it, but I worry that they won't read at all if I don't assign some sort of follow up.
Have you ever considered judicious use of occasional pop quizzes as an alternative to this? I use them in some of my classes, particularly the larger, lecture-based ones, where it's less (or not at all) readily apparent to me which students are doing most of the reading and which aren't. I don't weight these pop quizzes very heavily, since even the best students fail to complete the reading from time to time, but altogether they count for enough that if someone bombs most or all of them, it probably will hurt his or her grade. I make sure the quizzes have a mixture of easy, recall-the-basics type questions (e.g., "What are the three main branches of the Nigerian government?") and more conceptual ones which require more than skimming to answer adequately (e.g. "In no more than one brief paragraph, explain what the major difficulties involved in enforcing the Indian Constitution's ban on caste discrimination are"). This way, I get a reasonably good indication of who's reading and who's not, without boring the students with constant nugget-digging (or burdening myself with more grading than I have time for).
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Yeah, but teachers in America at least, have the added burden of being generally reviled by much of the public...

Maybe that says more about what we value most in this country then we'd like to admitt.
I agree with this. Education is (rightly enough) accorded huge weight by most people as a factor in furthering equal opportunity and social justice, and one problematic consequence of this is that those on the front lines of the educational system (teachers) are constantly exposed to intense and often biased scrutiny both as individuals and as groups.
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Old 09-15-2006, 12:16 AM   #85
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by yolland
[B]




Have you ever considered judicious use of occasional pop quizzes as an alternative to this?[QUOTE][B]
I do that with my 7/8 Geography class more often than with the freshman. I've got four students in my freshman World History class two of which are ESL students who barely speak English, one whose only been speaking English for three years, and one who is a native English speaker but who has some reading comprehension issues. So the whole issue of how to challenge the students that are ready while helping those who are just barely stumbling along is writ large in my class. I think your idea works best in a college setting where most students understand the value of reading without some assignment "requiring them to." AT this level. . .hmmm, I don't know. I'm thinking maybe I need to stick with this concept of kind half read/half lecture with the students in class then have them answer the questions as review and reinforcement. . .or give a quiz the next day--that might be even better--so they go over the reading again on their own to study. . .This is a work in progress.

I do almost all my correcting with the students in class so generally the only grading I do is tests and essays.

[QUOTE]Originally posted by yolland
[B]
I agree with this. Education is (rightly enough) accorded huge weight by most people as a factor in furthering equal opportunity and social justice, and one problematic consequence of this is that those on the front lines of the educational system (teachers) are constantly exposed to intense and often biased scrutiny both as individuals and as groups.

The irony is, given the "weight" we place on education, that educators especially at the elementary and high school levels are accorded so little respect. I think it's more than extra scrutiny. There is a very "American" sense that teachers are "losers." Granted you have your deification of teachers every now and again. . .your "Stand and Deliver" or "Mr. Hollands Opus" but more often than not, the teacher is the butt of the joke. There is the assumption that teaching is "easy" (which I think makes people all the more irate when teachers fail in their work--since the assumption is that any dope could do what they're doing). Americans may value education but they do not appear to value educators and often take them for granted.
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Old 09-15-2006, 12:17 AM   #86
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Sorry my quote boxes got all jacked up and I don't have time to fix them cuz my wife is waiting for me in the car.
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Old 09-15-2006, 01:07 AM   #87
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean
So the whole issue of how to challenge the students that are ready while helping those who are just barely stumbling along is writ large in my class. I think your idea works best in a college setting where most students understand the value of reading without some assignment "requiring them to."...I'm thinking maybe I need to stick with this concept of kind half read/half lecture with the students in class then have them answer the questions as review and reinforcement. . .or give a quiz the next day--that might be even better--so they go over the reading again on their own to study. . .This is a work in progress.
Fair enough, I wasn't thinking about the fact that several of your students have significant language-barrier problems. And true, as a college teacher I do have the luxury of being able to assume my students are capable of grasping the basic points and retaining the basic facts from whatever readings I assign...though I have to be careful, with anything below a 300-level course, that the "reading level" not be above a 12th-grade one; many of my students struggle with the way more theoretical issues are presented in "college-level" textbooks, which is part of why I compile my own piecemeal reading lists. And I never factor prose quality into my quiz grades--if the answers are in there, they'll get all the points. Only with essays do I demand clarity and proper structure in their writing, and I make copious comments pointing out and explaining those kinds of flaws...plus with the first paper of the semester, everyone who gets below a B is asked to do a rewrite and to visit me in my office before doing it, which is among other things my chance to refer them to our tutoring center if I feel they need it.

I think a planned-quiz route, following up on reviewing read-for-content questions in class, sounds like an idea well worth trying.
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The irony is, given the "weight" we place on education, that educators especially at the elementary and high school levels are accorded so little respect. I think it's more than extra scrutiny. There is a very "American" sense that teachers are "losers."...There is the assumption that teaching is "easy" (which I think makes people all the more irate when teachers fail in their work--since the assumption is that any dope could do what they're doing).
Hmmm...well, I sure don't think elem or high school teachers are "losers" or "doing what any dope could do," but maybe on this count it is relevant that I'm a teacher myself, even if my classroom situation(s) are very different. Then again, I have heard a few humanities profs dismissively describe education curriculums as "fluff," which I've never replied to as I really know nothing about education curriculums (ironically, since this is what my father was a professor of), but personally, I've always thought most profs-to-be would benefit greatly from a little coursework in pedagogy, since typically we don't learn crap about it; the assumption is basically that you'll magically figure it out on your own, perhaps with a few pointers from the profs you TA for (if you're lucky enough to be paired with ones who have time for you).

Why do you suppose this assumption exists? (i.e. about elem/high school teachers)
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Old 09-15-2006, 05:36 AM   #88
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I think you and I are the only ones still interested in this thread

Ah well . . .

I'm going to try my new approach next week! I cant' wait!

As to why people have this attitude towards teachers in America? I'm not really sure. I think a lot of it is cultural. Teachers are authority figures and in our individualistic culture we're not too big on authority figures. We don't like people telling us what to do. Worse teachers are often authority figures without much real power to back up their authority. Police officers are authority figures too, but at least they have guns and take down the bad guys (though you notice that in most films the really "cool" police officers are the ones not in uniform, the underdcover types wearing the badge around their necks when they wear them at all, and often behaving less like authority figures than anti-authoritarian rebels themselves. The "loser" police officers are always wearing the uniform). We Americans respect power at the point of a gun or the smack of a fist. Teachers don't have that going on. In the past 100+ years or so the majority of teachers on the elem level especially have been women, so there may be some sexism too--the picture of the spinster teacher and so on.

In talking with my Chinese-Korean students, I'm learning that there is a very different attitude towards teachers in their cultures. And I believe this has very deep cultural roots going all the way back to Confucius. Teachers are respected deeply in their cultures (though not necessarily liked). There is the very real sense that the teacher holds your very future in his/her hands (especially in China). Americans on the other hand are "self-made", and so our destinies are in OUR hands not that of some dry pedagogue. My Chinese Korean students present their work to me like an offering with both hands, they bow. And they are very respectful. They also expect me to be much meaner than I am. In their home countries teachers routinely shout at and harshly reprimand their students.

There's an excellent book by Tracy Kidder called Among Schoolchildren that really highlights the challenges, rewards, and issues in teaching at the elementary level. An English prof I really respected recommended it to me, and I in turn highly recommend it to you. I actually teach it to my Freshman literature class. It's about 15 years old now, but I believe the issues he highlights are still relevant.

And part of the problem really is that the standards for teaching in the U.S. perhaps are too low. Based on my own experience, I would say that a lot of college-course education curriculum really is fluff. And you do find people, sadly, who can't hack it elsewhere getting in to the education profession because the coursework at least really is "easy." These days most schools require their teachers to earn a masters within the first five years or so of teaching (something I haven't done yet), so I think that's good. And there is emphasis on continuing education throughout your career. But still, I think at the end of the day, teacher training is still lacking for the most part in my opinion. To be a truly good teacher IS hard. . .it takes more than just technical knowledge, there's an art to it too.

Another factor could be the low pay. The American Dream doesn't have much room for someone who chooses ON PURPOSE a low-paying profession with little hope of economic advancement. There's nothing very "free market" or "entreupenurial" about teaching.

Some would argue that teachers are already making "too much" but I'd suggest that says more--again--about the low value people place on teaching. Often those who would make excellent teachers go into other professions because of the better pay and higher status. Perhaps the key is to raise the standards for becoming a teacher dramatically and that the same time that you raise the pay (making them more on par with doctors or lawyers perhaps). But then again, the need for teachers is much greater than for doctors or lawyers (after all based on pure numbers every single person in America will need a teacher for at least 12 years of their lives while most will need a doctor only sporadically and some may never have need of an attorney) so maybe we wouldn't be able to meet the demand. And many teachers are gov. employees and the gov. isn't going to be doling out six figure salaries any time soon.

So you see it's pretty complicated!

One other thing. . .I agree that many college profs. could use a course on how to teach (though you are clearly NOT one of those profs!). There are many who know their content but really don't know how to pass it on to others.
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Old 09-15-2006, 07:48 AM   #89
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean
I think a lot of it is cultural. Teachers are authority figures and in our individualistic culture we're not too big on authority figures...We Americans respect power at the point of a gun or the smack of a fist. Teachers don't have that going on. In the past 100+ years or so the majority of teachers on the elem level especially have been women, so there may be some sexism too--the picture of the spinster teacher and so on.

In talking with my Chinese-Korean students, I'm learning that there is a very different attitude towards teachers in their cultures...Teachers are respected deeply in their cultures (though not necessarily liked)...Americans on the other hand are "self-made", and so our destinies are in OUR hands not that of some dry pedagogue...In their home countries teachers routinely shout at and harshly reprimand their students.

Another factor could be the low pay...The American Dream doesn't have much room for someone who chooses ON PURPOSE a low-paying profession with little hope of economic advancement.

...But then again, the need for teachers is much greater than for doctors or lawyers (after all based on pure numbers every single person in America will need a teacher for at least 12 years of their lives while most will need a doctor only sporadically and some may never have need of an attorney) so maybe we wouldn't be able to meet the demand. And many teachers are gov. employees and the gov. isn't going to be doling out six figure salaries any time soon.
Very interesting, these points certainly make more sense than any theories I was able to come up with...I think actually Dreadsox has touched on the sexism and low pay points before, now that I think about it. The ambivalence towards authority figures also kind of dovetails with your earlier observation about what we seem to value the most, and how that sometimes contradicts what we claim to value.

There are actually people who argue that teachers make too much? Wow they must not know very many then. I can see the merit in the "raise the standards, then raise the pay" idea; on the other hand, if professors could be argued to be a precedent of sorts for this (insofar as we're "teachers" with PhDs), I'm afraid it's not the most encouraging precedent, since it's generally only those who teach sciences, business or law (or are coveted superstar scholars, or have served as administrators) who make anything remotely resembling most doctors' or lawyers' salaries. Especially at public universities. It's depressing, though, to think that raising preparation standards might have the effect of hurting supply...seems like a lot of schools have enough trouble meeting demand as it is.

I would like to hear more teachers' perspectives on this standards issue, though.

When I guest-lectured in France last summer, I was struck by the awe or at least intimidation with which their (college) students regard their teachers, too...not sure if this extends to French primary teachers, though.

And I will definintely check out the Tracy Kidder book--I've heard lots of good things about him, never read any of his stuff before though.
Quote:
I agree that many college profs. could use a course on how to teach...There are many who know their content but really don't know how to pass it on to others.
There is one other big problem here, and that's the whole publish-or-perish thing, or more generally "the rise of the 'research institution' "--the two very much go together. Professors are expected nowadays to increase the scholarly prestige of their departments and their university, not just its reputation for teaching, and that means accumulating a pretty extensive publications record if you want to make tenure (though only about 50% of college teachers are actually in tenure-track positions now--basically, it's the academic equivalent of the business-world practice where you keep as many of your employees in "part-time" or "temp" status as possible, to save yourself money). The upshot of this is an academic culture where teaching is increasingly devalued as a source of merit; too many get away with mediocre classroom performance (i.e. mediocre teacher evals) because their publications record looks so good; non-tenure-track "adjunct faculty" are in effect subsidizing their tenured counterparts' research through their own anemic paychecks; and meanwhile tenured profs have to spend hours and hours applying for grants to cover research expenses which in theory should be paid by their departments, but can't be because there's too many research expenses for the allocated budgets to cover. My father, who was too old to have experienced this pressure himself and died before it really pervasively took root, had heard about it starting to happen at the Ivies, and I remember him remarking once that this was the most ass-backwards tenure criterion he'd ever heard of; if anything, he said, junior professors should have to observe a publications limit, so as to ensure that their early career years remained focused on achieving what their students were paying them to provide--good teaching. While I certainly don't think pressure to publish is all bad--it's necessary for the future of one's field for scholarship to advance, and many admittedly wouldn't contribute much without some prodding, plus so many fields are absurdly saturated from a supply standpoint right now that it's reasonable to respond by increasing some standards--nonetheless, I feel he was right to deplore the ascendance of scholardom at teaching's expense; it can be a great privilege to study with a distinguished scholar, but not if they're lousy at imparting what they have to impart. Especially considering how outrageously expensive tuition has become. And anyhow, inevitably the very idea of "distinguished" winds up being degraded when that gets measured primarily by quantity.
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Old 09-16-2006, 06:35 AM   #90
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Quote:
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There are actually people who argue that teachers make too much?
Well, it was implied on this thread. The teachers constantly demanding more pay raises etc. Which would suggest that the poster believes teachers--especially public school teachers--are already making "plenty".

Quote:
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I would like to hear more teachers' perspectives on this standards issue, though.
Me too, but it appears there's not much chance of that happening on this thread.


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I feel he was right to deplore the ascendance of scholardom at teaching's expense; it can be a great privilege to study with a distinguished scholar, but not if they're lousy at imparting what they have to impart.
But as you've ably pointed out, that's the reality, which is why I believe college students need to be prepared to "teach themselves" so that they can benefit from the knowledge of a scholar without having to depend on that scholar to "teach" them in the "elementary" sense of the word. I try, even with my freshman, to prepare my students--gently--for the world of college. So far, it seems to be working, as most of my former students that are now in college seem to be doing okay. Though maybe it's a bit vain of me to "take credit" for that. They're pretty sharp kids and I'm proud of them.
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