Thursday, October 28, 2010

Waiting for Superman

The author of an inconvenient truth has done it again. This time for the school system. I wonder though how much time the director spent in the classroom teaching. They'd quickly see that the problem isn't in the teaching but in the students. I haven't seen the movie but I bet they're calling for more money and placing blame in the wrong place.

I posted a comic strip a while back showing parents upset with a failing grade their kid got. Thirty years ago, they would yell at their kid. Ten years ago, they yell at their teacher. Now, they don't know about their kids grades or care if they did. I've experienced that first hand in my semester of teaching high school math. This isn't the case for all students or parents but it's becoming really common.

The solution to this problem is simple. Start giving failing grades. If they don't do the work or they're not listening, let their grades show. We're not entitled to a diploma. It should be a result of the effort put into your school work. Kids who don't make the grade get held back (*Gasp*) and are forced to try again.

Some may drop out and that would be unfortunate... sort of. The overcrowded classrooms would have one less disruption harming the education of the rest of the students. The teachers start to feel like they can make a difference in the classroom because they have the power to enforce the rules necessary for real learning. Who knows, those who do drop out might encourage their kids to be quiet in school and work hard after seeing how hard life is without an education.

Some kids have a harder time learning even though their trying. Those kids are easy to spot and help if you had the resources available. That is, if you're not dealing with discipline the whole class period, you can work one on one with that kid and not worry about the rest of the class going out of control.

I would reform some things though. Pay should be higher for teachers in lower income neighborhoods where the kids aren't exposed to the resources that high income earners have. Likewise, those schools should have higher budgets. Schools with an active PTA that brings in all the money they need can deal with a smaller budget. Also, all the classes teachers have to take to stay "highly qualified" should not be considered personal time. It should be considered a teacher work day.

I would also implement "neighborhood schools" and later start time so 5 year olds aren't having to be on the bus at 6:00 am. Since kids that young typically need at least 10 hours of sleep a night and it takes at least an hour (often 2) to get them ready in the morning, they're having to go to bed at 6:30 or 7. Parents barely have time to prepare dinner and get them washed up before it's bed time. Forget about allowing play time, there just isn't time for them to be kids.

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