Saturday, August 15, 2009

Teachers are the answers....

There have been a number of reports in newspapers and on the web about reforms needed in education. A popular one has been about how we need longer school days and we need schools to continue throughout the summer months. A research report has stated that children who continue throughout the summer retain more of what they learned during the last school year. I don't find any fault with the research but it didn't say that the children continued to learn or that they advanced in learning. And it didn't compare the results with children who had the summer off. How long did it take for the kids who had a summer off to catch up?

I think teaching kids, young adults as well as adults takes time. You need to teach the material however it takes time to absorb what was learned. Sometime it takes years to understand what you have learned. Talk to most adults and they will tell you about the "aha" factor where somewhere in their life, the understanding of something finally hit them. Aha! Do you remember, "Oh, yeah, I remember learning this!"

I have two points to make....... My first point is if a child (or teenager) is not learning, doing it longer and longer (longer days or throughout the summer) is not going to work. On a few schools that report positive results an analysis seems to show that the administration changed the curriculum to art projects, hands on scientific experiments and field trips. As far as I can tell it was a summer day camp. And I will agree, kids will learn. But we've been doing that sort of thing for years at regular summer camps. I don't think it should be said that the regular education system is now improved.

There are enumerable research studies that show play is an important part of learning. My second point is that kids need to play in order that later on they can learn effectively and efficiently. Really! Actually, let's face it, we humans need to play in order to recharge our batteries. Companies know that their employees need time away from work to be effective workers throughout the year. Why we need to have a full year of schooling just doesn't make sense to me.

In this country we like to compare ourselves to the rest of the world. I know from first hand that much of Europe do not have schools during the summer. In fact in France the month of August is generally vacation time for the whole family. Yes, the museums are open for the tourist and the cafe's are open but that's about it. It's holiday time.

An aside: I went to visit a French Teacher Training Institute just outside of Paris one year. We were looking at classrooms and talking about their curriculum when noon arrived. Conversation stopped! And we headed to a little cafe' nearby where lunch was served. Only then did my host seem to relax. A bottle of wine, good food and the conversation continued. Indeed, I think my host would have preferred spending the day there talking about schools and teaching. Very relaxed. Play is important to all of us. Please pass the wine, thank you...and I'll have a little more of the bread and cheese.

But there are some other negatives that we need to consider about the longer school day or continuation through the summer months. You're going to have to pay a higher salary to the teachers. It's gonna cost you. And then what are you going to do when the family wants to go back to the family reunion in Iowa? How do those kids make up the work? I don't think the longer time at studying is going to take off anytime soon.

I hope you are having a good summer and you have taken some time off to relax and play. When you have a moment, sit down at your computer and write an e-mail to one of your teachers and thank them for all they did for you.

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