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There are lots of movies such as Freedom Writers that show how teachers can be extremely successful in the classroom. They do need more support from the school board. I think that videotaping every classroom and allowing parents to be able to check in on their children throughout the day would help to make school administrators make sure the teachers get proper training and learn new innovative ways to teach while allowing parents to see that their children are safe and are paying attention. Keeping an eye on 20 + kids is difficult but when a parent checks in they can concentrate on their own child. There are also children in school with special needs and some who cannot or will not speak and parents should have the resources to check on them from work or home to make sure they are not being mistreated. This would also help stop bullies. All children should also be involved in community projects through school to teach them how to help others.
From a teacher's perspective, I feel videotaping the classroom is a waste of time as it is not fixing the problem with education. Almost every teacher I've ever worked with has amazed me. Many of the children are not prepared to learn.
Students should be given a choice of tracks in the high school. Students could be exposed to available tracks at the Middle School level to help them make a more informed decision based on their interests and talents. Of course, parents would be included in the decision making process. Here is what I would suggest for tracks:
1. College Track - students on this track would take accelerated courses to prepare them for admittance in to college, as well as success upon entering college. College Credit Courses would also be offered. This could follow the model that many states already have in being an "Early College," which allows students to complete HS and their Associates Degree in 5 years.
2. Technical Track - students on this track would take basic Math and Reading courses such as business math or budgeting for your household and how to fill out an application, write an essay and typing skills. They would also still be required to take some science courses and Social Studies/Government. Beyond this they would select a trade to begin studying. This could be any technical trade from Electrician, to Plumber, to Welding, to Hotel Management or Cosmetology. These students would graduate from HS with some sort of certificate for a trade, as well as hands on experience and possibly internships in the field.
By providing students with options that truly prepare them for their future, there would be far less dropouts and we would truly be producing productive citizens to add to the work place. Not all students are geared for College and some are not interested in attending college right out of high school. It is up to us in education to help guide these students and prepare them for whatever path they choose in life. By getting them through high school with a diploma, they still could choose to attend college down the road, if their interests change, but for the time being they would have a skill to help them attain a job to care for themselves and eventually their families.
For one thing, have more teachers who really care. I also think that the students should be taught how to learn. Do not just have a mandatory class in college about how to study, take notes, etc. Start this in the middle schools. Teach them to think more and think more critically, and they will learn faster and comprehend more. I think that the No Child Left Behind Act should be completely removed. If a child does not understand the material in say, the fourth grade, how will they learn in the fifth? It only makes tha child frustrated, and holds back the others.
We need to incorporate environments into our schools which aim to provide hands-on learning. Let students explore science through projects and experiments. Let them learn to write through expository writing based on free choice research. Let them develop their creativity through T shirt design, printing, typography, and fashion design. Let them learn accounting, computer programming, computer repair, sewing, cooking, journalism, shop and auto mechanics, and money making in general in a hands-on way. For instance, a mini-city could be established on school grounds based on mock or real money making ventures. There would be activities that would incorporate the use and therefore practice of mathematics, reading, writing, and research for all. The students could stay in school until they are hired by a company, start their own business, or or want to go to trade schools or colleges. What is the real importance of grades? The carrots would be the love of learning with caring teachers and mentors. If the students do not comply with the boundaries or rules they would be asked to leave. Most students are happy to be in school because they like the comradship of fellow students. Actually they also like the learning of the skills which will allow them to participate in society. Let Life be the curriculum and they will be there.
Many children come to school hungry - they have not had breakfast, nor do they have a snack to eat. I often notice students who are wearing clothes that are too small, and not warm enough for the cold days. Several students take medication for anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and emotional disabilities such as "Oppositional Defiance Disorder". These students often come to school off their med.s and disrupt the classroom. Classroom size is usually 27-28 students per classroom where I teach, and the classrooms are just big enough to accommodate the desks, so there is no space for other activities the teacher might want to incorporate. Students are absent from school often - 3 students a day on average in my classroom. These are just a few of the challenges teachers face.
In response, teachers identlfy students who are hungry and get them food. Teachers identify students who are in need of clothing and get them clothes. Teachers communicate with families to find out why children are absent and if the families need help. Teachers use resources available, such as food pantries, counselors, and their own money to help children who are in need. Every teacher I know does these things all the time.
While trying to meet student's basic needs so that they are prepared to learn, teachers take classes (two college classes are required every five years), they attend workshops to learn new teaching strategies, and they meet with other teachers to plan exciting lessons. They do most of this on their own time.
So, to every teacher out there, You are amazing!!! You could be doing many other things, but you chose this field of work because you probably want to make a difference and you do every single day, despite the many challenges you face.
What needs to happen to improve education?
1. Smaller class sizes.
2. Larger classrooms.
3. Comfortable classroom environments (buildings are old- mildew, mold, poor circulation causing children and teachers to get sick and have poor air quality). My room gets above 80 degrees on hot days - hard to stay focused when you are uncomfortable.
4. Higher teacher pay and compensation for classes required. Teaching is not a job now that most people want to do - they will have to work another job during the summer, which is hard to find that pays decent, and there are so many challenges.
5. Offer parenting resources to help parents meet their children's basic needs, so they are prepared to learn.
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