Sunday, January 16, 2011

Links I've Been Mulling

I try not to write posts that go on for days; mostly because I tend not to read those sorts of posts. I may not be able to help myself here though. Several things I've read in the last week or so keep percolating in my mind.

First off, Ben Johnson wrote on Edutopia about the need to learn. He seems to be arguing that teachers need to worry less about their students' lives outside of school and just focus on teaching.
Am I sacrilegious by saying we should not spend so much time worrying about what happens in a student's home and should spend more time creating effective learning environments at school?
I have a hard time divorcing the two. If I ignore the fact that one of my students is living in a homeless shelter and that another just lost a baby brother in order to focus solely on their learning environment, is that truly helpful? I can't completely separate my life outside of school from my life in school so it seems absurd to think that young children can.

To follow up on that topic Valerie Strauss had a post (on the Washington Post) about the shortage of school counselors. Apparently schools are recommended to have one counselor for every 250 students. Our district seems to fund one counselor for every 500 students. Just allotting counselors per student does not make a lot of sense. Schools with many students living in poverty are likely to have a greater number of issues requiring counselors. Need should be factored into this question. Of course, none of that is relevant if there aren't enough counselors to begin with.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals had a recent post considering the impact of poverty on PISA scores. They have taken the time to break out our PISA scores based on percentage of students in the free or reduced lunch program. One of the most astounding things to me is that no one seems to have the poverty rate we have. That alone suggests a problem far greater than anything in education. The charts the NASSP have created comparing PISA scores are worth checking out.

Finally, Jay Mathews (also at the Washington Post) encouraged schools offering free or reduced price breakfasts to require students to read as they eat. This is not surprising as Mathews often argues for more learning time in a variety of ways. While I am not against making powerful use of the time we have students in school, I also believe that learning is social. Children need time to talk to one another. I also know that in many high poverty schools children do not have a lot of social time outside of school. They go home to apartments and remain there because their parents do not feel it is safe to let them run around outside (and quite possibly they are correct). I fear we are losing sight of children as people and seeing them only as small vessels who must learn things we have deemed important.

(While Mathews did not offend me with this post, many of the comments do. But that's a whole other post.)


teacherninja said...

I'm all for more reading time, but agree that lunch needs to be social. I like the book The First Six Weeks of School which encourages teachers to lunch and recess with students those first weeks and actually teach them better ways to socialize and play and interact.

Plants seeds of knowledge...for our future! said...

I think sometimes when we focus on cramming more into the tight schedules that there are in school we lose the effectiveness. More does not always equate to better. As it is kids are rushed through math, reading, science, and social studies jus to make sure we get it all in. We really need to look at what we are doing to our kids. It is not an assembly line we cannot just pack their brains with information and ship them on. There has to be time to let them process, explore, analyze, and sythesize the information we are giving them. Sadly, the focus on testing is doing the complete opposite of what we need to do in classrooms.
I agree we have lost focus of the CHILD in our school system. :(

KellyTeaches said...

Hmm yeah... I don't think we can just not worry about students home lives because it's hard to separate them. Plus I don't really think my "worry" about it really interferes with learning time... I could be crazy but I still teach the kids any time I can.

Sneaker Teacher said...

I agree with Kelly. It's really important to know what is going on with students' in their home lives in order to be BETTER teachers for them. If we are out of touch, we aren't going to connect with them!


The Science Goddess said...

The more we disconnect school from the world around students---whether that means "ignoring" their home life or not using meal times for social purposes---the less human education becomes. This is fine if you like the "school as factory model" types of view...not so hot for the rest of us.

Do I wish all of our students lived in a world where there was nothing to worry about in their homes lives? Sure. But that's not real life. We do children and teachers no favours when we tell them to leave their humanity at the door.