Friday, April 29, 2011

Perfect for Testing Season

I imagine every teacher out there can identify with this.  Read it, feel the frustration, but rest easy in doing what is right and necessary for the good our students...

And now from Finland

We need to be willing to think outside the box when it comes to improving and changing education in America.   But I understand that it can be scary to try new things.  Furthermore, there may be more slowly changing institution that formal education. To change will take both courage and patience.  While we are figuring out what to do and how to do it it would behoove us look to places where change has begun.  Let’s look to Finland.  I read years ago that in Finland they had a unique response to low-performing schools – they increased funding to them.  Think about it… low performance leads to more funding to find and enact solutions.  Though I forget the details, I suspect the continuation of such increased funding was tied to increased performance.  That appears to be the opposite of the American model – under-perform and loose funding but still be required to lift achievement. 
Now I come across more from Finland.  I currently teach in an elite, high-stress, amazingly high performing, private school that asks for long hours, lots of homework, strict behavioral guidelines and great structure.  I teach in a school that could make many a Tiger Mom very happy.  Many people seem to think such structure and time on task is the answer to problems in our schools.  But consider this from Finland – fewer hours, less structure and greater freedom leads to top performance…

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Online Education

While I am sure there is a place for online education, it will never hold a candle to face-to-face instruction, guidance and mentoring.  The learning and teaching process is fundamentally about communication and relationships between learners.  Certainly, there are situations where it saves significant resources.  Small, rural schools simply can't hire staffs of teachers to offer 23 AP courses or six foreign languages because they have a half dozen kids to take advantage of them.  There are places where online education provides an answer to a challenging problem.  But too often I hear people talk about online education as some sort of panacea or a viable replacement for classroom education.  These are often the same people who were convinced that VCRs, overhead projectors, ceiling-mounted digital projectors, laptops, powerpoint, hyperstudio, etc. were tranforming tools.  They miss the fact that a good teacher knows his or her students as people, tailors instruction accordingly, forms bonds with his or her students and makes sure that the relationship between learners is a regular and vital part of the classroom experience.  Technology is simply a tool.  Granted, if the point of school is the aquisition of points, grades and test scores I'm completely wrong.  But I don't think that's really the reason we have school.  For more on the subject check out today's NY Times' Room for Debate at