Compared to what is required of them , what teachers require will seem quite insignificant , but if they get it , it will change almost everything ; it will change students’ as well as teachers’ lives !
Reducing Class Size
The social setting in which instruction occurs is a major factor affecting that instruction .
"…Reduced class size will make sure that every student receives personal attention and gets a solid foundation for further learning……"
Small classes make a difference . Studies confirm what parents & teachers know from experience -- small classes promote effective teaching &
learning ……… Teachers prefer small classes in order to better identify student needs, provide more individual attention, & cover more material effectively. " ( President Bill Clinton, Jan.26th, 1998)
If we are committed to promoting exemplary practices ensuring that all learners reach their fullest potential , we need to nurture each student’s capacities , i.e. encourage them to keep trying , by making them aware of their individual progress and abilities . Each student must be given the opportunity to work at his/her own pace. (cf. Fred M. Fariss’s "A Child’s Bill of Rights ." )
They must be given the TIME they need to internalize whatever we are explaining ; as we know , students don’t learn the same way ; they must be treated as individual persons who have differing needs , styles , and preferences .
Can teachers do that in large classes , especially if they have several large classes to teach ?
Can they equip all students, especially those most underserved, with the skills and capabilities to lead satisfying, productive lives ?
What exactly does good small-class teaching look like?
A teacher teaching a large class may see little recourse other than using tightly structured, directive approaches ("Get in your seats now"; "Do pages 187 and 188") to maintain control over student behavior.
Rows and columns of desks are likely, since that's all the space allows. Students may require teacher permission to use the pencil sharpener or go to the bathroom.
Boardwork assignments, workbook pages and weekly reading may recur with little variation. The routine may be dominated by large-group instruction, with the same work, pace and tests for all children.
As class size shrinks, other possibilities grow :
The teacher can really get to know each child.
He or she can individualize the lessons.
The basics can be covered more thoroughly, with time for varied and creative enrichment activities.
Extra classroom space can be used for a reading corner or learning center that gives students options, encourages peer interactions and helps develop decision-making skills and a sense of responsibility.
Students gain time to discuss what they read. They can get instant feedback on a problem from a teacher who moves around the room as they work.
This one-to-one interaction between teacher and student is the heart of the matter . Smaller classes give the teacher the leeway to connect with each child, including that quiet boy in the corner. He/she can talk with him and -- especially -- listen, to see where his real strengths and difficulties lie.
Finally , we can say that lowering the number of students in the classroom will almost certainly create new opportunities for students to thrive -- academically, socially and emotionally.
Getting Enough Time
"Building good teaching practices, like building anything of great worth, requires a substantial investment of time."
Why do Teachers Need More Time ?
-to share lessons and ideas with other teachers;
-to attend workshops and observe other teachers in action ;
-to figure out how to make the change toward high-performance teaching and learning in their own classrooms.
-to have a life , a passion of their own .
A-Let’s start with the professional side :
Teachers must have time to master their subjects, design learning experiences for students that will lead to the achievement of rigorous academic standards, use improved assessment systems, better prepare for teaching their students, and work with and learn from colleagues and others with particular kinds of expertise.
To lock teachers into the existing system, which defines a teacher's professional activity , almost solely , as the time spent in front of students in classrooms, is to guarantee failure.
The list of things teachers need to know and be able to do in order to be effective in teaching today's student is longer and more complex than at any time in our history. For example, we are asking them to restructure the entire teaching and learning process to insure that all students learn to high levels. We are asking them to acquire much more in-depth understanding of subject matter and pedagogy. We are asking them to be actively involved in organizational change through participatory management. In short, we are asking them to do many things they may not know how to do and have little time and opportunity to learn.
Teachers need opportunities to learn how to do the work expected of them.
However , we know that teachers frequently complain that the limited in-service training time they are given is rarely enough to help them improve their teaching practices in any meaningful way (Kilpatrick, 1992, p. 48).
We know that teachers spend the bulk of their day in their classrooms practicing what they already know.
We know that the time teachers can invest in instructional improvement is minimal .
We also know that low priority is placed on professional development by our schools in direct contrast to Asian and some European philosophies about teacher training.
In Germany, teachers are in class with students for 21 to 24 hours per week, while they work approximately 38 hours per week. The remainder of their time is used for other aspects of their professional work including planning and working with colleagues to improve learning for students. "
In "our country" today, as researcher Linda Darling-Hammond points out:
"Time is rarely available for planning, for working with other colleagues on changes in the school organization, for meeting individually with students or parents, and for working on the development of curriculum or assessment measures -- activities that are not considered part of the teacher's main job. In contrast, teachers in most countries work with large groups of students only 15 to 20 hours per week and spend the other 20 to 30 hours per week working individually with students and parents, planning and consulting with other teachers, and developing curriculum and assessments." (From "Reframing the School Reform Agenda: Developing Capacity for School Transformation," Phi Delta Kappan, June 1993)
We must be aware of the fact that quality learning experiences for all teachers are essential if we are to move all children toward high academic standards.
B-What about the teacher’s Private Life ?
He/she should definitely be given the time to have one !
Teachers need a life , they need a passion outside of the classroom!
Teachers should not feel guilty when they aren't with students all the time or aren't home grading papers.
Teachers need to know it's okay to do something for themselves.
Healthy energized teachers produce motivated students.
When teachers have exciting lives, that enrich humanity and themselves, they bring that energy, that passion into the classroom.
It is very easy for them to transmit the energy and passion to their students in a way that those young people would believe that growing up could be exciting and wonderful if only they would continue to learn .
Page Created on September 8th, 1998
Last updated on April 19th,1999
Copyright (C) 1998/1999 by Nada AbiSamra.
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