"[I]f I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week…The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." --Charles Darwin

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Some reactions to new proposed school models

I have heard from friends who are not professional teachers (just amateurs like most people) in connection with the new school models I have posted about so far. One reaction is found in the first comment under the previous post (below). Here are two others:
Bill Vinson taught 4th grade to [three of my children]. [Two of the them] were the kind of student who would excel in most modalities, but Bill's style was really wonderful for [the one] who has ADD. [He] hadn't yet been diagnosed in 4th grade, but upon review by the school psychologist in between 6th and 7th grades, he was fairly classic. He lacked the hyperactive "H", and he also functioned well above grade level in most skills, so he was labeled as lazy and a clown rather than receiving a correct diagnosis and an IEP.

The classroom functioned as an "office". The students sat at round tables with an interlocking partition which make "cubicles". [My ADD child] had a folder which was his "inbox". If he completed his assigned tasks he could receive a bonus, which was no homework. Assessment was built into the assigned tasks. Upon mastery he moved on to the next skill level, or did "specials" which were enrichment activities. [My son] thrived in this environment where he learned a task and built upon it. When he was not bored he loved to learn, and the energy he used to use clowning was now focused on what he going to do next.

Bill gleaned stuff for the daily work folders from everywhere and anywhere. He had found the old SRA reading system and several other reading systems where he could track performance while letting the students work at their own pace. He had an incredible classroom library and he knew the books well so that he could integrate them into the childrens' reading for vocabulary, spelling or other enrichment. He also knew the kids and their interests.

Bill had a computer program for the kids to do their spelling tests so that they could test themselves. He used computer games for spelling and math reinforcement. The programs were personalized for each student so that they would be working on their own set of spelling words or math skills. He used every bit of technology he could find from an old Atari up to a pentium PC (remember this was like 1995....). The school only paid for one computer in the classroom so he dug up anything he could find and made it work.

[My son]'s daily work could still include some of the dreaded xeroxed work sheets, but since they were for skills he was learning rather than stuff he had mastered two years ago, they were interesting. He would also have assigned spelling time on the computer. He might have to complete 2 sets of SRA for reading and 2 units in the basal readers. There might be a science experiment or activity to complete and definitely something about the state of New York (because that is part of the mandated curriculum for fourth graders per the New York Regents).

An unexpected bonus of all this is that the students push each other to excel. There was a lot of healthy competition and mentoring in the classroom. Ben enjoyed helping his friends and wanted to do well.

Having all the students working individually rather than as a group does take much more organization and planning than having everyone move along at the same pace. But so worth it.
Bill sounds like a master teacher. And here's from a friend who has been a life-long student--in the good way:
I like [the method proposed in School of One]. It acknowledges the student for who they are and where they are at at that moment of time in their life when they are learning. It also gives room for the turmoil that can be happening within the student's home life.

These days with forclosures and all else it has to be very difficult for a student who has to keep up with a prescribed learning schedule that is rigid. There is something to be said for discipline, too. Students need that balance. I've done quite a bit of college, but during my days [in high school] when talk of independent study was run by me I liked it.

I've been accepted into Empire State College which is much like this for my last two years for my BA. Guided study appeals to me for learning Chinese because a formal classroom wouldn't serve me as I have so much on my own learning in that language. Still there are holes. Students like me who are interested in everything do well with this. I hope the school system you teach in is open to this. It's very ZEN.
Thanks for sharing, and I encourage more readers to do the same. So more models coming up...

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