How it’s done right

June 1, 2007

If I need a lift, I go here. It’s how school should be — probably all the way through.

I don’t know the details of how or why this class is set up the way it is, but day after day they do things that other people use as textbook examples of what a good classroom ought to be doing, sometimes. And they do it day, after day, after day.

Carnival of Education, are you paying attention?

Wow.

I wager right now that these kids will be the top performers on the standardized tests for at least the next five years, in their classrooms and schools. The Living Classroom weblog is a valuable chronicle for how to provide quality education.

Somebody should step up with the money to track how these kids do, especially against their contemporaries. Alas, this is exactly the sort of information that will be lost, due to “lack of funding.” Fortunately, one of the women involved in the classroom made the chronicles, and shared them.

Side note: Looking at the photos, ask yourself, “Does our town offer these types of recreational facilities for use?” Washington has traditionally led the nation in setting aside land for public recreational use — this class has taken full advantage of being in a town that had the foresight to put up public art and public beaches, and other public parks and places. There is a lesson here for city planners, and for mayors and city councils who wonder how they might support their schools, run by other governmental entities.

Dandelion, class activitiy for The Living Classroom


Looking up to Finland

May 30, 2007

Commenter Bernarda sent a link to a Washington Post story by Robert Kaiser about Finland, a nation who redesigned its education system with rather dramatic, beneficial results. Among other things, the Finns treat teachers as valuable members of society, with high pay, great support, and heavy training.

Finland is a leading example of the northern European view that a successful, competitive society should provide basic social services to all its citizens at affordable prices or at no cost at all. This isn’t controversial in Finland; it is taken for granted. For a patriotic American like me, the Finns present a difficult challenge: If we Americans are so rich and so smart, why can’t we treat our citizens as well as the Finns do?

Why not? Why can’t we treat our citizens as well as the Finns? Their system boosts their economy and leads to great social progress — which part of that do we not want?


Inherent evils of public education

May 11, 2007

Public schools have serious problems.  Regular readers here should know me as a defender of public education, especially in the Thomas Jefferson/James Madison model of a foundation stone for a free people and essential tool for good government in a democratic republic.

Can you take another view?  Here’s one that should offer serious material for thought:  How the Public School System Crushes Souls.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pick the Brain.


Send me these kids, please

April 20, 2007

Lucky will be the teacher who gets the kids from The Living Classroom.  I wager they’ll be eagar to learn, and that they’ll set the pace in good behaviors and academic achievement in future classes — unless someone throttles it out of them later.

For now it’s a bunch carrying a lot of hope to some lucky teachers next year.  Check out this post, “All the Beauty We Can Find in Just One Day,” and this one, “My School.”


Notes from the Sub Terrain: Basketball class

March 27, 2007

Notes from the Sub Terrain is an occasional — okay, spasmodic — set of observations from a certified teacher working as a substitute.

Basketball class

The assignment said “upper level, basic biology.” But upon arriving at the school the Sub learned the teacher to be replaced was one of the basketball coaches. The school’s team had won in the state playoffs the previous night, and the coach was assigned to scout the next week’s opposition in a game on the other end of the state. Cool.

Oh — except for this: The first hour was basketball, in the gym. The Sub wasn’t dressed for it, the Sub doesn’t play much basketball, let alone coach it. Worse, the assignment had said nothing about a first hour – the bell had just rung, and The Sub was late. What room? “Green Gym.”

Where is the Green Gym? the Sub asked. “I have no clue,” the substitute coordinator said. There are several gyms, but they are not in exactly the same place. “I think it’s near the arena.”

Trudging to the attendance office, the Sub got crude directions. Only 10 minutes late so far.

Found the Green Gym. 22 students were dutifully engaged in four different games of basketball. Notes from the coach said the students should play “pick-up” games for the period.

As the Sub walked into the gym, two students from the full-court games broke off and ran over, volunteering to help with attendance, so no roll would need to be called. There were no absences. Attendance took a couple of minutes, and the students went back to their games.

Every few minutes one of the teams in one of the games would hit 21, or some other magic number, and the game would end. When two or more games ended, the students designated different teams and went at it again. After about 20 minutes someone yelled something about getting enough water, and the students took breaks individually to get a drink.

The Sub recognized many of the kids. They were, many of them, troublemakers in other classes. Here they made no trouble. Disputes about fouls were settled quickly and amicably, and the games went go on. Good shots, or good defensive plays got vocal approval from all quarters. Hot dogging got jeers: “Just play!”

For 70 minutes the games rolled quickly. Then, without prompting, one of the students rolled out a ball cart, put a couple of balls away and headed to the locker room. Within three minutes all the balls were on the cart, the cart went into a closet, the lights were turned out and the gymnasium was empty.

The Sub wants to know why all classes can’t be that way, with the students doing the work, willingly and happily, without complaint, without prompting or prodding, and finishing and cleaning up on time.

The Sub noted that most of the students did not shower, but instead masked themselves in clouds of Axe body spray, which the Sub thought unhygienic.

The Sub said he later learned that the class was the junior varsity basketball team, mostly. He said the discipline they showed was impressive.

The varsity team won their next playoff game, and headed to the state tournament. The Sub said that if they are as disciplined in the big things as the junior varsity players are in little things on the basketball floor, they will win the state championship.

How can we restructure other classes to get the benefits of student self-discipline? the Sub wonders. Why don’t the students make the connection that discipline makes them champions in one area, and strive for similar discipline in other areas?

Why don’t the teachers, coaches and administrators make the same connection?


Utah’s legislature boosts education across the board

February 27, 2007

Gifted with a surplus of funds due to a good economy, the Utah legislature hiked education spending in almost every category, providing pay increases for teachers, more teachers, more schools, more books, more computers — adding more than $450 million, raising the total state education check to $2.6 billion for elementary and secondary schools.

Much of the increases will be consumed by rising enrollments.

Through much of the 20th century Utah led the nation in educational attainment, but fell in state rankings as population growth accelerated especially through the 1980s and 1990s. The Salt Lake Tribune’s story sardonically noted:

The budget package increases per-pupil spending by more than 8 percent. But because other states may also boost school funds this year, fiscal analysts can’t yet say whether the new money will move Utah out of last place in the nation in money spent per student.

Classroom size reduction is excluded from the increases, because the legislature thinks earlier appropriations for that purpose were misused, according to the Associated Press story in the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune:

The extra $450 million will have little effect on reducing classroom size, however, because even as Utah hires more teachers, every year brings more students.

Lawmakers said they were withholding money for reducing classroom sizes until legislative auditors can investigate reports that districts misappropriated some of the $800 million dedicated for that purpose since 1992.

Every teacher and librarian should get a $2,500 pay raise and a $1,000, one-time “thank-you” bonus. Starting pay for teachers in Utah averages barely over $26,000 now.

Read the rest of this entry »


Memories of a one-room school

January 28, 2007

Not just one room, but one room populated mainly by one family and cousins. Dying Man’s Journal has some reflections on a Canadian one-room school.

Some of my students could use such a school. It would be very good for them.

I am reminded that we learn so much  more than just the subjects taught, while we are in school.  A good school provides an education for life.


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