"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Disconnect Between Reformers and Educators

Teaching is a full time job. It is one job that usually goes beyond the classroom. Not surprising, both grading and planning sometimes even occur inside a teacher's home. With other factors influencing learning outcomes inside a classroom, teaching can easily be a day-to-day struggle. A good question to ask then is whether teachers actually have the time to reflect on what they are doing. Are there ample opportunities for teachers to recharge? Perhaps, this is what the summer break is about. However, rest also takes time.

Some teachers post on blogs. Some teachers even have their own blog. I find these internet pages quite informative. Teachers are sharing their small victories, their aspirations, their struggle, their opinions, their life inside the classroom. One example is Lisa, a kindergarten teacher. She writes on her profile, "I'm Lisa, mom, wife, kindergarten teacher. I love my job and work with some of the best teachers on the planet. I can't imagine doing anything else!" The following is one of her posts:

Above photo captured from Lisa's "K is for Kindergarten"
Indeed, the next day (September 21, 2010) Lisa posted "C is for Chocolate". Fast forward, two years later, Lisa posted "T is for Teacher", an article praising the heroic teachers of Newtown, Connecticut. I have also seen blogs written by teachers in the Philippines as well. Some are equally refreshing and enlightening to read.

There are almost five hundred posts on this blog since its inception in April of 2012. That averages to something slightly above one post per day. Some teachers could blog so perhaps, teachers could read blogs as well. So the question is "Do they?" In a recent blog article on the Huffington Post, Michael J. Petrilli of the Fordham Institute talks about "Why Don't Schools Embrace Good Ideas?" With all the ideas thrown out there to improve basic education, why is it that implementation lags far behind? Are the teachers not doing their job to enhance their profession? Are the teachers too tied to their old ways that they do not innovate? Some of these innovations even come with carrots such as recognition and awards. Are principals and teachers simply ignoring innovations even with multiple incentives offered on the table?. Petrilli then notes:

Well, we know how that’s turned out. We’ve put a lot of those incentives in place, and schools (and educators) still don’t seem to embrace good ideas, even the non-controversial, inexpensive kind. Take, for instance, the following: 
  • Bring “departmentalization” to elementary schools by asking strong math teachers to teach math and strong reading teachers to teach reading. Don’t ask anybody to do both.
  • Maintain a robust science and social studies program in elementary schools.E.D. Hirsch and others have demonstrated for decades that the best way to raise readingscores is to make sure students build a strong vocabulary and a strong knowledge base; elsewise, they won’t comprehend what they’re reading. Yet schools nationwide have pushed aside science and social studies to make room for mega-ELA blocks.
  • Extend the “reach” of excellent teachers via larger class sizes (with greater pay), new roles for master teachers, or technology. (Public Impact is chock-full of revenue-neutral ideas on this front.)
What is particularly insightful in Petrilli's article is the suggestion that the main reason why some of these innovations are not reaching the classroom is that teachers have not read any of these. They are too busy. This blog alone has 500 posts. Who has the time to read all the articles that I have posted? In a previous article on this blog, "Experential Learning at Sagada National High School", it was noted that a high school in the Philippines has been facing frequent changes in curriculum:
"Sagada National High School in the Philippines maintains a blog for its school paper "Hillside Echoes". Last month, it published an editorial on DepEd's K to 12. The editorial noted that last year, the school witnessed three different curricula in the school. Fourth year students were still in the 2002 Revised Basic Education Curriculum while both second and third year high school students were with the unfinished 2010 Curriculum. First year students were facing the new K to 12 curriculum.
Can teachers even breathe in this type of environment? The second important thing that Petrilli also points out is the number of innovations and reforms can be simply overwhelming. On top of that, among these countless innovations, most are not reliable, most are not transferable. That means teachers not only have to read and explore these innovations but teachers also have to separate the gold from the stones. And most are useless stones. Most teachers do not have access to high quality peer-reviewed journals. Unfortunately, teachers find easier access to brochures and white papers, which oftentimes have other agenda other than improving education.

In my own limited way, this blog has been an attempt to help find the gold. And I take this opportunity to thank those who have helped me so fari n this endeavor, especially those whose ideas and works have been presented in this blog.







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