kitchen table math, the sequel: momof4 does the arithmetic

Monday, March 22, 2010

momof4 does the arithmetic

re: group learning
Let's see; it's very important to have a great/highly-qualified teacher, but somehow a few minutes per hour of that teacher's time (supervising groupwork in a full-inclusion classroom) is just as good as having 45+ minutes of her time (in a teacher-centered, homogeneous classroom)? Does the ed world have any idea how illogical that sounds? Impossible is probably closer to it.


Laura said...

The frustrating thing to me is not only that the "differentiated instruction" model fail kids academically, though it obviously does, but also that the carelessness in approaching work makes for such an unpleasant day for the kids, and wastes not just academic time, but also additional time that could be spent on exercise and genuine fun and relaxation.

There is no expectation that any of the kids can actually focus, so the actual work required doesn't matter that much--what do they care if it's over some kids' heads and under others, it all blends together. The teacher doesn't require kids to be quiet and concentrate (and respect their own work and that of their classmates), and so 10 minutes worth of work stretches into 40 minutes of chaos. There isn't even a chance to worry about whether or not the work is at an appropriate level for the kid.

I've only been in charge of my own class for a few times now, but each time, at least one kid has mentioned how their teacher always yells at them. That's what the teachers do--they don't require respectful behavior, so when the kids get noisy, the teacher has to use intimidation to keep them from boiling over.

Yet somehow, I, with hardly any experience, with my very weak natural leadership skills, have managed (solely through implementing techniques gleaned from Palisadesk's recommended sources) to keep classes of 25 kids (ranging on different days from age 5 to age 10) on task and pretty happy for most of the day.

And my implementation is seriously weak at this point, but even the pale shadow of effectiveness that I've so far managed to develop makes my day a happier, more productive one than what I see in many other classrooms.

momof4 said...

There is supposedly a huge increase in ADHD, which I really see as a change in definitions; normal child/boy behavior redefined as pathology and the increase in classroom materials and practices that favor girls' interests and aptitudes over those of boys.

However, I also begun to wonder if the full-inclusion classes and groupwork method are not contributing, by allowing more confusion and stimulation than many kids can handle quietly and work productively.

Somewhere in the early 80s (I think), there was a fad for open classrooms, where multiple classes did multiple different things in a large, undivided space. This was the way my kids' MS was built, and it was such awful chaos (for kids and teachers) that the spaces were subdivided into real rooms (with doors) within a few years. Maybe the full-inclusion classrooms and groupwork have some of the same problems.

Laura said...

by allowing more confusion and stimulation than many kids can handle quietly and work productively

I think it's even more than that (though I do agree with you). We aren't teaching kids how to use the "thinking" part of the brain, and most kids do more or less figure it out themselves (though not as well as they could potentially--kind of like w/phonics), but some kids are just never learning how to stop seeking out comforting feelings to calm themselves down and to instead learn to use more conscious, deliberate methods to turn off their "fight or flight" response.

momof4 said...

Laura, I think you've hit an important point: "not teaching kids how to use the thinking part of the brain." Along with full-inclusion, groupwork etc. seems to come a sort of disdain for working quietly and independently, with full concentration, which is really required for serious academics. Something like "if you're not talking, being engaged (whatever that's supposed to mean), you're not being authentic, or some such.

momof4 said...

I should have added that self-control is something that has to be taught; and it should start in toddlerhood and continue through both school and home. Schools seem to value letting one's emotions run over restraint.

Laura said...

Schools seem to value letting one's emotions run over restraint.

I agree, and I also think that when you get practiced at exerting full concentration, it not only serves its main purpose--enabling learning and getting important work done--but also even helps you not have to rely so much on restraint.

It almost seems to tame your inappropriate fight and flight response (though I'd bet it leaves a more appropriate fight-or-flight response intact for serious situations), so that you don't have to work so hard to calm down in response to confusing or annoying stimuli.

SteveH said...

"Does the ed world have any idea how illogical that sounds?"

It also makes it difficult to talk to people in the schools. There is a complete disconnect. Over the years, I've also experienced what I call preemptive strikes aimed at letting me know that I shouldn't become one of "those" parents, and to establish their expert authority. Under those circumstances, a discussion of "logical" would not be appropriate. Actually, many things I have been told over the years wouldn't stand up to the slightest analysis or argument.

It wasn't until just two years ago that our school finally offered proper pre-algebra and algebra courses that provided students a clear path to geometry in 9th grade. How on earth did they think kids were supposed to get there before?

It's really quite astonishing. We keep looking for deep meaning, but it isn't there.

momof4 said...

For me, the nadir was being assured (by an EdD deputy ass't sup't) that my 8th-grade-graduate wasn't "qualified" to take keyboarding in July summer school (instead of in Sept) because he wasn't in high school. HOWEVER, since he had taken Honors 8th-grade algebra, he could take geometry in summer school!!! He assured me that taking remedial, non-honors geometry with kids who failed it last year was appropriate preparation for Honors Algebra II in Sept. Bang head firmly against wall... you just can't talk to these people.