Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Beginning of the School Year

Hey, I'm back from vacation. Sorry for the drought of words about teachers but I was at a place with limited (for me) web access.

On the flip side this is a cool time in education--the beginning of school for most children and young adults, teachers getting classrooms ready, new schools opening up and a big problem, new bus routes. At the college level freshmen are arriving, somewhat scared but excited, getting their dorm rooms decorated and finding their way around campus and town......all the time twittering Mom back home.

But the big news in this part of the world has been the strike by teachers in a suburban school district. They wanted more then the district was willing to give. Or should I say less then the district was willing to agree to. The strike was not about money but rather class size.

I have a good friend who keeps saying that we need to outlaw teacher unions because they are always asking for more money. Sorry, old friend but this time it was not about money. As I have repeatedly written on this blog, teachers teach because they want to teach--they have to teach--they need to teach. If they wanted more of a salary they would go work in a different profession. I know of two teachers who are retired who have been tutoring young adults for free. But my main point is that the teachers who were striking were asking for smaller class sizes so they COULD DO A BETTER JOB OF TEACHING THEIR STUDENTS. It is difficult to teach first grades how to read when you have a class of thirty-four children. Let's even make this example an easy one by saying we have only one child who is hyperactive and two who don't speak English at home.

So how does a first grade teacher start the year? The first thing is to find out who can read already. I would guess that about six to eight students will have some understanding of how to read. So that makes one group of readers. There may be another group that is ready to read, is excited and will constitute a second reading group. The teacher still has over half the class to test and decide how to start the remainder of the children into reading groups. And for you non-teachers, consider working with a first grade reading group and still have the rest of the class doing something positive--not just wasting time. That is a management task of great skill. A fourth grade teacher can say to the rest of the class, do your homework, your math problems or even read your library book while I work with this reading group. Yup, first grade teachers in the fall are a special breed. I luv ya!

But I got sidetracked--sorry. The teachers on strike wanted smaller classes which they eventually got--twenty-four kids in the primary grades. Some class caps in the intermediate grades but the middle and high schools didn't get the cap on classroom enrollment as they wanted. I heard one high school teacher say she would agree to this because if the primary teachers could do a better job of getting children to read and write, her job would be easier later on. Smart lady.

So the strike is over. I was amused by the court who was going to fine each teacher who didn't go back to work two hundred dollars a day. I suspect that some of the beginning teachers with medical and tax deductions don't make that much.

Just another point for you to ponder. In Bellevue, a city east of Seattle and close to Microsoft's main campus, there are several private schools who advertise that their class limits do not exceed ten students per teacher. Ten students per teacher. Now take a wild guess which students are going to learn more, the ones in the twenty-four students classroom or the ones in the ten limit classroom.

I'm truly glad the strike is over. I know it was hard on the teachers. The decision to break a law probably bothered most of them but it was a matter of being between the rock and the hard place. As far as I could tell, the teachers just wanted to be able to do a better job of teaching.

My mind wanders into puzzlement. Can you imagine any other profession that would strike to do a better job? I'm serious. Would Boeing engineers go on strike to build a better airplane? Or Microsoft workers strike to do better coding. It is absurd at the extreme. Interesting thought.

Drive carefully--the kids are back at school.... Several children wandered in the street yesterday in front of me. So be careful. And be sure to thank the teacher on duty in front of the school when you drop your kids off.

No comments:

Post a Comment