The personal learning network for educators
In my mind, our educational system is inflexible and unengaging. We tell students what they need to learn and how they should learn it, regardless of whether it is relevant to their lives or not. Don't misunderstand, I know there needs to be structure and minimum requirements of proficiency in content that will ensure that our students are well-rounded and well-informed citizens, but I also believe that students should be able to dive deep into content that really interests them.
I am a proponent of pushing students to learn at their own level--no matter what "grade" they happen to be in. That's why I like the standards-based learning environment so much, which is designed to allow students to move on when they have demonstrated proficiency at a certain level.
To me, creating engaging and flexible classrooms is a teacher issue, not a systemic issue. Each of has to do what we need to do to be sure kids learn the content they need to learn to be successful. If we can manage to do that while offering them them ways to dive deeply into content that really interests them, then great. I do have kids who have created their own writing blogs with artwork and photos and graphics. I have lots of kids who love to share their personal writing; I would venture to say many English teachers do. I also have kids who would rather poke their eyes out than write a paragraph. This said, I don't feel it is the system that engages; it is the teacher and the content. Thankfully, those kids who hate writing have Mr. Lock who can engage them with a math problem, or Mr. Kurz who can challenge them in a political issue or a mysterious geographical phenomenon, or Mr. Forster who can set them free with a welding iron or a power tool and hunting for board stretchers.I believe all our students are engaged in something at some level at PHS. There is always room for improvement, I'm sure, but it does not call for systemic change as much as for motivation and encouragement.
We can and should teach students to learn at their own level; in a place like Peetz that shouldn't have to mean "batching" them differently, We assess where they are and take them as far as they can go ... as individuals. We teach our kids for 4 and sometimes 6 years. We have a pretty good handle on what they know and can do, and I believe we do a fair job balancing remediation and rigor. ( The problem arises when a student with 4th grade skills shows up in a ninth grade classroom.) Again, as always, I'm sure there is room for improvement.
I agree as well. Secondary students also have the ability to make some choices as far as their education goes. Elementary students do not. Their are some basic things they must accomplish before they are ready to make wise choices as to their own educational endeavors. I wonder what some of the students would do if given a choice of staying with their peers who are academically superior/inferior to them or moving into a group that was homogeneous even though some might be younger or older than them.
I also think we do a great job at the balancing act. But, what about the 6th grade student that functions academically at 3rd-4th grade levels and the one who functions at at an 9th grade level? How does one person manage 16 different levels of rigor and remediation?
Student age can have an impact on bullying and other matters relating to development which could provide some areas of trouble. Student age would also makes those that are say 17 years of age but in a "freshmen" class feel embarrassed and stupid.
Effectively means that we have to alter the way we teach in our traditional sense of lecture, practice. We have to think a bit larger and out of the traditional model in order to do that for several levels in one class period. There are many models out there now that may work for some teachers - not everyone is suited to this, but I think we have to look for alternatives. Project based learning models, flipped classroom like the email I sent out a couple of weeks ago, standards based (http://vodcasting.ning.com/video/the-flipped-classroom) , mastery, etc.
Do we ask each teacher to create their own model for their academic content area? Would it serve students better to look at grouping students by levels? I don't think adding staff can be a solution with the budget cuts we are facing.