Why They Can't Think and How to Save Them
I have over 12 years of teaching experience, mostly at the elementary school level. I taught at the private school level for 7 years and recently have taught long term substitute positions at several public schools. I see an immediate need for educational reform at the 4-6th grade levels at our public schools.
The elementary education curriculum is now completely controlled by our state. All teachers have to be on the same page, at the same time, in order for the students to be ready for their e-cart assessments, another term for quarterly assessments. Teachers need not only ready their students for these tests, but have to spend countless hours analyzing the results. Teachers need to revise lesson plans for those students who did not answer certain questions correctly. They need to fill out various reports as to why and how certain students did not achieve the standard passing scores. It is an unnecessary quagmire of paper work and meetings. I am certain that federal and state funding is tied to all of this nonsense. Schools need to meet certain standards or they will be closed. Looking closer at the curriculum web-site, I noticed that it is maintained by Northrop Grumman. Hmmm---very interesting. Why is a premier federal defense contractor now maintaining a state education website and at what cost?
My fifth graders read at a 9th grade level and wrote 2 research papers complete with citations and bibliography. They developed a keen interest and love for Shakespeare after reading and performing Romeo and Juliet.
Teaching at a private school framed my teaching methods and practices. I believe that all public elementary schools should have the benefit of these methods.
Areas of needed reform should include:
1. Instruction of classes by master teachers who have degrees in their subjects, not elementary ed degrees.
2. Students rotate to different wings of the school for various subjects. Each class room is designed for that subject area. For example: the science rooms look, feel, and smell like science. :) Live critters and plants are everywhere!
3. Teachers are given a list of teaching objectives that are mapped to state requirements, but are free to approach them in creative and innovative ways.
4. Literature, philosophy, and economics are all introduced by the 4th grade.
5. English and math are taught every day. English has 90 minute blocks, broken up into three 30 minute segments: literature, writing, and grammar/research. Math meets every day for an hour.
6. Science and History are on block schedules, meeting every other day for 90 minutes.
7. Other elective classes meet twice a week or more depending on the subject.
8. Open library time. Students are encouraged to come to the library throughout the day.
9. Teachers overlapped curriculum ideas and themes to enhance the passion for learning. For example while I introduced a gothic literature segment with Frankenstein, our science teachers did a dissection unit, while our art teacher did a segment on Leonardo Da Vinci's the human form. The kids loved it!