Monday, May 30, 2011

WTF, I’m supposed to teach???

R. Barker Bausell must have been born under a weird sign or something because he offered up a thesis to the problems of  education that makes too much damn sense. 

Teachers don’t teach enough. 

“….efficient teachers hewed closely to the curriculum, maintained strict discipline and minimized non-instructional activities, like conducting unessential classroom business when they should have been focused on the curriculum.”

In an absolutely shocking study, teachers that were efficient with class time actually had students that did better on standardized tests. Apparently not wasting the student’s time might actually help the student become more focused, more engaged, and in the end, possibly more learned.  Wow.  What an incredible surprise. 

I’d like to say that I’m efficient with my time, that I use it with purpose and that the time is valuable to student’s needs.  With Seniors, that becomes incredible tough to gauge.  They can look at you with disgust while at the same time believing that your class holds value.  It’s just the whole concept of high school that no longer holds value in their minds.  And some people might perceive classroom banter as useless and unnecessary.  I call it building relationships, and those relationships can get you through tough times during the year. 

Bausell also makes interesting recommendations to implement such a program. 

A focus on relevant instructional time also implies several further reforms: Lengthening the school day, week and year; adopting a near-zero-tolerance policy for disruptive behavior, which classroom cameras would help police; increasing efforts to reduce tardiness and absenteeism; and providing as much supplementary and remedial tutoring (the most effective instructional model known) as possible.

I like the ideas, but from the point-of-view of Ukiah High, some would have a near impossible time coming into practice.  For instance, we have shortened the school year because of budget cuts.  That kind of hurts the increased weeks and year argument.  And while I have no problem teaching more, I do have a problem teaching more without my specialization being appropriately compensated.  And tardiness and absenteeism is rampant at the present time; much of it willfully ignored by parents that think children are immune to the costs of wanting to do too much.  And we can’t hammer on attendance too much because they’ll end up going to a charter school where they get credits for simply showing up.  That’s one argument that Bausell seems to have missed.  Some charters are dogshit.  That leaves the near-zero-tolerance policy for disruptive behavior.  Ask any teacher.  We’d love it, but the climate of parents opinions of the teacher would make it look like we were picking on poor Oliver. 

In the end, it goes back to something that is missed in the Edu-Reform argument; does the community really want their kids in school longer.  Look at the evidence behind attendance and you might be quick to find that the tide is actually rolling against more instructional time, regardless of the public face put on the argument.

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