Monthly Archives: March 2013

Then there are the high schoolers…

When you are a substitute teacher, that substitute does not see the real classroom; that person sees a version of “I know I can fool you because you are not my real teacher.” So, I take that into account when I enter the secondary grades. I do know, though, that most students are finished with the hormonal transition that turns them into beasts of burden of the junior high level (remember, I do not tread those halls) and they kinda (and I use that word with hesitation) know something (they have yet to figure that out) that education is important to their life. Yet, they know they can pull the wool over your eyes (I don’t think so!!!), and they really work at not be accountable for their work in the classroom. 

So, my question is, what happened between 3rd grade when the student is so eager and so proud of his work to being in 10th grade and the student is so tired and so unresponsive to his work?

I really don’t know. But, I guess if I could answer that question I would be a hit on the talk-show circuit.

As a nation, we say education needs more money, but I wonder, after the initial expenses are met, if money is the reason. I think it is more. I think it’s going back to making the student eager to learn, giving the student challenges and helping that student succeed.

I don’t want to trivialize this subject because it is huge … it is our future. This (education and our youths)  will determine whether we continue to be a world power or lose our footing and let other nations dominate us. But, I do think it is simpler than bureaucratic funding and regulations. I believe it is getting back to the simple. I believe it is helping the student believe in him or herself, that he or she has the answer within, that he or she  just needs to trust in himself to speak up, to try. I believe it is small groups of students instead of large classrooms where Andy is still poking Sally, Trevor has to go to the bathroom, Tyrone wants to go to the counselor’s office (a new excuse once you enter the secondary level), and now Jose is nodding off, and Nancy can’t quite seem to keep her head off the desk.

I wonder if the computer is part of the answer. 

I will have more on that next time, but until then I would like to know your thoughts on how we, as a nation, can inspire our high schoolers to achieve. I still believe they are the 3rd graders who were so eager to learn and so proud of their success.

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Education is changing, thanks to the computer

I am excited about education, and it is not only because I am an educator. I am excited because many people are learning, especially those who may have had trouble with academics a few decades ago. Why? — The answer is the computer.

Let me back up for a minute and explain how we learn. There are three basic ways we learn — auditorily (by hearing those lectures and lessons), visually (by reading those textbooks), and kinetically (by trying things out with our hands). When you learn auditorily, you need to be fully focused on the words being spoken; when you learn visually, you need to be able to first know what those words mean and then you need to comprehend the meaning of those words; but, when you learn kinetically, you learn by doing, you are an involved participant instead of incorporating passive skills such as hearing or reading.

Over the past few months I have been substitute teaching, mostly in the elementary grades,   and I have seen the children in the computer labs. First and second graders are reading great topics, such as plant life, on their level with a yellow highlight on the word and earphones on their ears to follow along. They are completing addition and subtraction problems at their level without anyone knowing where they are on the education scale, such as learning numbers while the rest of the class is learning addition or subtraction. Or, maybe, another student has advanced to multiplication, ahead of the other students. This does not take the place of regular lessons; rather, it is a supplement to the classroom experience.  

I have seen the students engaged while in the computer lab with only one or two lagging behind, fiddling with logging on instead of forging ahead with the lesson at hand. This is wonderful. This is encouraging. This is where learning takes place. I know. I have seen it when  the computer flashes 100% or missed 1 in bright yellow across the screen. I have seen the students instantly smile at their success, and I know that they will try it again because they are successful and they want to be successful.

Go back into the classroom for the instruction, and there are distractions — Johnny is poking Sally, Devon is fiddling with his pencil or attending to the books in his desk or  going to the teacher to ask to go to the bathroom, Samantha is saying her stomach hurts, and Jose and Juan are talking between each other hoping not to get caught by the teacher.  So, not everyone is going to fully hear that lesson, or fully comprehend what that story says in the classroom, but everyone is going to individually be able to practice what they are learning when they are on that computer. They are engaged. They are focused. They are learning,  And I will thank that machine for helping all students learn, not just the ones who have no problems learning auditorily or visually.

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