Thursday, February 03, 2005

Who Determines How We Teach?

Apparently in New York, the Department of Education does.,0,185126.story?coll=nyc-homepage-breaking2
Stop talking in class -- that's the message many teachers are getting from the Education Department.

Many are ready to overthrow a "workshop model" of teaching that limits lessons to 10 minutes, with the chunk of the 40-minute period reserved for student group work -- with minimal adult interference allowed, some said -- and the last five minutes spent sharing results.

"We are no longer teachers. We are coat racks," said Steve Nathan, a social studies teacher at Russell Sage Junior High School in Forest Hills.

This goes back to the adage I learned in my credentialing courses--the teacher should be the "guide on the side, not the sage on the stage." I always assumed that the school district paid me a moderate amount of money on the assumption that I know more about math than anyone else in my classroom, and was in that classroom to share that knowledge with my students. Good thing I don't work in New York! Imagine how foolish I'd feel to find out I'm only there to babysit.

This brings up a couple of points. The first is pay. Those teachers seem to be there solely to babysit. Perhaps they should get babysitting pay! Actually, I calculated what that would be once. Let's see, $4 an hour, times 150-165 students a day, times 181 school days. That comes out to anywhere from $108,000 to $119,000. Not a bad deal. I doubt, though, that those New York teachers are making this much.

The second point is the sheer stupidity of thinking that children should teach themselves. Our system of mathematics has developed through the exertions of the best minds our human race has had to offer. Why do we think children and teenagers should be able to invent what took those great minds thousands of years to develop? Pythagoras and Euclid never even saw Algebra II material.

In what other field do we expect people to teach themselves? In trades, people start as apprentices, progress to journeymen, and then become masters. In professions, people learn under the tutelage of those who have already mastered the skills of the profession. We don't put students in front of a piano and expect them to start playing Bach; they learn the notes and chords, then Chopsticks, and they move on from there. We don't expect teenagers to teach themselves to drive, and we don't expect medical students to figure out how to perform surgery. Privates learn their skills from their sergeants. Rookies learn from veterans. Why in education do we refuse to accept that those without requisite knowledge should learn from those that have it? Such refusal boggles the mind.

Here's a little more from the article:

The result is that instructors, trying to "sneak in teaching," have been written up for workshop model lapses, union officials said. Other teachers have conspired with students to act immersed in the workshop model if an administrator pops into the room.

"Can you imagine trying to teach physics in 10-minute sound bites?" said Jeff Zahler, teachers union representative for Queens school district 30.

And even some honors students are critical of the model. Eighth-grader Johanna Sanders, 13, said, "You go to school to learn, for the teachers to teach you. The teacher shouldn't be paid just to stand there and answer a question here and there."

At least the children get it.


Bob the Blogger said...

I'm convinced that the reason the Educratic elites are pushing this type of instruction is because they have no idea of what teaching really is.....In fact, I'm convinced that many of them hate teaching. They also have no idea of what it is to coach.....That is why they think the coaching model is one where you sit back and watch your players perform. True teachers and coaches use direct instruction to teach students....When they see error they intervene and correct. This instruction doesn't have to be given in long uninterrupted monologues.....but it does have to be given. There is a place for discovery learning, but it is no way to teach simple facts or math fundamentals. It is an inefficient way of learning that leads to many misconceptions.

Darren said...

Ah, but this method isn't about coaching. It's called "The Model". And remember, models don't do anything but stand there and look pretty.