Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reform, educational or otherwise

I was given this quote about the time I finished my Master's degree. It fit what I knew then about educational reform, and we were on the verge of implementing the No Child Left Behind Act. That is now largely dismantled, at least in WA and like most reforms is mired in funding issues.

"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning
to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later
in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing;
and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress
while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."

According to Liberty-tree.ca, this quote is falsely attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter. Quote is from Charlton Ogburn, Jr. (1911-1998), in Harper's Magazine, "Merrill's Marauders: The truth about an incredible adventure" (Jan 1957)


Friday, June 5, 2009

Parents really do know best!

Ok, parents who CARE and KNOW their children know best, so make sure the definition of parent is one who really does parent.

In preparation for my first child I read Dr. Spock's (no, not MR. Spock from Star Trek) book on baby care. After the first child I went back and read it again, laughing most of the way. The man was never a mother. But the one piece of advice that was sound was in the preface to the book. I don't have the book any more, I probably threw it away. But the advice was to parents who have had more opportunity to observe their children than anyone else. The gist was that parent sense is the best sense about the child. The folks who spend the most time with the child know the most about the child, and should be confident in their hunches and observations. Parents really do know best.

It's also true about education. Parents really do know best.

But we've grown up in someone else's classroom, and with an attitude by the educationists that the professionals know best. They have spent a lot of time frightening parents into thinking they are inexperienced, unimportant, and detrimental to their child's education, so much so that many parents have given up trying to be effective. Educationists, you cannot expect parents to take their child's education seriously if this is your message to parents.

Parents, you're the ones with the most actual experience with your kids.

So feel free to direct your child's education. It's okay!

Put yourselves in control of your child's education. Be kind to the high school guidance counselor, but be firm. Take your student off 'graduation' track if that's what you need to do to get a better or more appropriate education for your child. Homeschool. You survived the 8th grade, and I'm reasonably certain that what you know is sufficient for teaching your child, AT LEAST through the 8th grade.

Think of how many instructors whose classes you remember for having a positive influence on your education. I'm guessing that, unless you were in an unusual school that there were about five, from K-12. (That's how influential our current educational system is!) Find those people for your kids, and get your kids into their classes. If you're homeschooling, find those adults and get them in front of your kids.

Yes, you're the parent, and you know best!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Educational theory

Let's see... In my educational career I've heard these terms thrown around:

Direct instruction
Learning Styles
Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives (three categories)
Much discussion on the value of grouping in education, dozens of ways to group, to group or not, group grading, etc.
Distance learning
Whole child education
Multiple intelligences
Artificial intelligences

Ya know, I have two file drawers full of education theory topics.

But it comes down to this:

Education happens when one instructor gets in the face of one student and asks "Which part didn't you understand?"

It is not that the rest of it cannot inform instruction. But please differentiate instruction from classroom management.

Ninety percent of what we teach about education is really about crowd control. The other ten percent is actually about LEARNING!

If you really want to know about learning then do it in small groups. Get knee to knee and nose to nose or shoulder to shoulder with your students and WATCH THEM WORK! Listen as much as you talk, and get your student to talk. Get your students to perform.

Groups of about four will maximize your educational effectiveness.