Rough draft of my thoughts on the current situation in education here in Idaho. As a teacher, I'm disgusted- mainly with the fact that a politician that has never set foot in a classroom is ramming idiotic laws into place and driving excellent teachers away from the state.
The students come first? Has anyone asked the students what they want? I did. At the end of last semester, I included this question in my final exam- “If you could change one thing about Mr. T’s class, what would it be and why?”
Since I teach Tech and Design, Metals, and Small Engine Repair, I expected the answers to be things like cooler projects, more time in the shop, less writing, nicer computers, or something along the lines of more variety of topics or more time spent on a topic the student enjoyed. I was amazed at their answers. My assumptions were totally false.
Most of the students said that if they could change something it would be: a Teachers Aide while working in the shop, more one-on-one time with the teacher, a longer class period to work on projects, more room in the classroom, more space in the shop, or less crowded lines around the tools. I did also have one student ask if we could convert the drinking fountain in my classroom to dispense chocolate milk. Still looking in to that one.
Obviously, for this question there was no wrong answer but I still felt bad going over the test with them. I had to explain to them what was being proposed at the time. The amount of teachers in Idaho was going to be reduced by 770. We did some simple math- if each of those teachers taught 20 students, how many students are now teacher-less? The answer is 15,400. Those students aren’t magically going to disappear, which means that class sizes are going to increase. I have been told that my classroom was designed to hold 18 students. Already my class has 4 extra chairs in it. Add to that the fact that I don’t teach just one class, but FOUR different classes, I have a lot of stuff crammed into a fairly small space. Where am I going to put extra students and how am I going to pay for the added tools and supplies needed so they have something to work on?
My wife is currently finishing her degree in Elementary Education. One of the classes she has this semester studies the history of education. If there is one thing that has been proven already- it is that larger classes don’t work. I believe that each student deserves one-on-one time with the teacher. Every one of them is unique, individual, and different. They learn in their own ways and have different problems with different things. If I can’t spend that one-on-one time with a student, they are going to struggle more. If I don’t understand something and have no one to ask for help, it is easy for me to get frustrated and just give up. Students shouldn’t have to experience that. Teachers should be able to reach everyone individually and meet their needs.
On-line classes? Talk about impersonal! Give each student a laptop, expect them to take care of it for 4 years (I’m not really sure how useful a 4 year old laptop will be to a new college student), and tell them to get to work. Even for the most motivated person, this is an extreme challenge. On-line classes are hard. To succeed in taking a class like this, you have to be very well organized. You have to have the time to do it. You have to be prepared to find answers on your own when something is unclear. You have to be prepared for problems with the equipment, misunderstandings because of poor communication, and you have to be prepared to do it all by yourself. That’s right. All by yourself. Occasionally, there is a teacher you will get to “talk” to. If you’re lucky, your teacher will respond to you within 24 hours. Not real helpful when you have a really simple question that has a really simple answer but puts you at a stand-still on an assignment. Students simply can’t get that one-on-one attention they need to succeed.
One last thing I really don’t understand about the on-line classes. Someone has to teach them, right? Where are these teachers coming from? If the State of Idaho cuts 770 teachers next year to fund laptop purchases and implement internet classes, who is going to teach them? Even if the program and curriculum is already developed, someone is going to have to direct, answer questions, give assignments, grade assignments, follow up with missing assignments, adjust schedules, the list goes on and on. An on-line class won’t run itself. So who’s going to run them? The money to pay these online teachers is generated by getting rid of teachers we already have, in the classroom, that give your student immediate guidance. We’re just shifting jobs from teachers to where, exactly?
The students know what they want. Research has shown what students need. Their wants and needs are aligned, yet those in charge continue to push their will. They feel they know what’s best- based on what experience? I don’t claim to have any answers, but I do know that eliminating teachers is going in the wrong direction. If the students come first, they should be getting the help that they need to succeed. They won’t find that help in a computer or from an over worked teacher. They will find that support as they work with and come to know their teachers. I am an Idaho Educator, and I want your student to succeed!