The NYT has a new blog up
(subscription required) featuring posts from five schoolteachers from around America. Reading the last post from Mor Regev, a brand-new teacher in the Bronx, about how her attempts to discipline a student not only made him more disobedient but threw off her plans for the rest of the class. Schoolteaching is possibly the only discipline where we take brand-new teachers and throw them in a classroom with thirty (in this case, forty-two) students, with virtually no supervision or feedback. Furthermore, because teaching carries such a low salary, it is difficult to find qualified teachers for positions. There are two things which, based on my experience as a student, will most dramatically improve quality of education: improve the quality of the teachers, and have smaller class sizes.
Improved technology in classrooms may be nice, but it doesn't do a thing if the teacher is horrible; indeed, it may be a bigger distraction to students. Furthermore, I highly doubt teachers in the 1940's and 50's were hindered by their lack of access to computers and email.
We can improve the quality of teachers first and foremost by raising salaries, but also by improving mentoring programs to give better feedback and introducing better sharing of lesson plans and effective techniques for handling and teaching a class of kids. Reducing class size will only be made possible by investing in more classrooms and more teachers at each grade level. The problem boils down to money, and better use of the money we spend. For now, we'll have our brand-new elementary school teachers on the verge of tears because they're trying their best, and failing, to control a class with forty-odd kids.
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