Thursday, October 9, 2008

Personal Touch

I have been listening to TED for about two years.  One of the talks I have listened to more than once is Sir Ken Robinson's talk about schools killing creativity.
He makes some observations about how we are really limiting ourselves with the current educational system. Student mistakes being very costly for the student in terms of "academic success."
This talk by Chris Lehman at IgnitePhilly reminded me that good teachers know more about their students than any test will ever show and schools do need to change very quickly (as in now might be too late!)
What do I think is going away in the current American school environment?  I am worried about students not knowing how to work in teams.  High level teamwork seems to be taking a beating in the schools I am familiar with.  Music and Phy ed are not getting the time and access to students that they need.  
These are not good times if you are a teaching in art, music, phy ed, shop, home ec, computer applications, foreign language or any of the other so called "extras."  Personally, I have seen my load go from about 125 students to 380 students.  I'm sure that I am not the only one.
I wonder about other subjects getting less than they need as well.  Are the new high-stakes-test-stars-of-the-show, math and reading, getting the right access to students?  When I see a small group math class of special needs students, does that mean there is a corresponding large class of  normal-to-above-average students somewhere else?  Aren't small class sizes and positive relationships important for all children?
I know the thinking out there is we need measurable results.  Let's use some technology and collect some data.  
I happen to be pretty good at technology and data collection.  I have used them both in my practice.
This approach still worries me.  I still think that education needs a more personal approach.  I am here to make sure that every student in my room makes some progress today, not necessarily on the official curriculum.  Hard to do in a big class.
Technology, in my experience, doesn't really make me more efficient to the point where I will have more time to deal well with more kids.  That idea is like believing that the old Publisher's Clearinghouse letter from Ed McMahon was really a personal letter from Ed himself.
If schools are worried about nothing more than what shows up on the test there will be other student needs not being met.  The creative side will not get the attention it needs.  I think that doing nothing but the measurable results approach will do damage to next generation.
Sure, collect the data.  Study it.  Act on it. But let's not forget these kids are more than their numbers.

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