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Passions in Poetry

How do we make our schools better?

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berengar
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0 posted 04-16-2004 01:35 AM       View Profile for berengar   Email berengar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for berengar

"Overcoming (normal social) mistrust is a herculean and profoundly alienating task for all but a small minority of exceptionally gregarious and socially aggressive kids. Tribes created mandatory places and encouraged relationships for all members. Tribal life did not select for special social or "group crashing" skills necessary for interaction with strangers. In the modern sea of strangers that our suburban high schools have become, life for shy kids seems like endless torture. For those with average social skills, it is merely profoundly alienating."

Sir Arthur Keith

It seems to me that modern high schools deal with the transition from childhood to adulthood in the worst way possible.  Not only are they "profoundly alienating" and fear-filled places for many, they also serve to delay the onset of maturity, cultivate the most superficial and base elements of the adolescent psyche, and inhibits the gaining of wisdom through meaningful interaction with their elders - a fulfilling relationship with a teacher seems to be a taboo thing these days with all the paranoia created by sexual scandals etc.

Your thoughts??

Aenimal
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1 posted 04-16-2004 12:19 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

A difficult question considering the amount of outside interference teachers and parents must contend with. We're living in an age where, more than ever, teenagers are inundated with images that celebrate money and celebrity. Education is work, and few want to work when they could be Stars instead.

Shows like American Idol feed the need, while MTV's Cribs and Rides drive it further as a parade of uneducated stars flaunt their wealth and possesions, despite the inability to properly pronounce most of the luxuries. (it's Marble not Mahbow)Yet, at least for some of them, it took some grain of talent and effort to get them where they are.

Much worse, are the myriad of 'Reality shows'. These are the worst offenders because participants recieve attention and fame through absolutely NO talent or skill.

Of course this is simply a part of the problem, but in a society/media that covers the romance of Bennifer over say a scientist achieving a medical breathrough, its a LARGE part.

Okay ok I'm done ranting...
jbouder
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2 posted 04-16-2004 01:04 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Parental involvement, individualized education, development and enforcement of credible accountability standards, adequate funding, abolition of the "soft-bigotry" of low expectations based on disability or socio-economic background, and recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers (to name a few).  Providing children with opportunities to succeed goes a long way toward helping them develop healthy self-esteem.  It also encourages life-long learning.

Jim
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3 posted 04-16-2004 07:00 PM       View Profile for SEA   Email SEA   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for SEA

What is so hard for me with schools is the way kids are picked on for being smart. I wasn't one of those kids. I was one that skated by with as little effort as was possible. Both parents worked, and I didn't really have the support or encouragemnet to do better. Now that I am older, and have learned that your education is everything... I help my kids every way possible. I stay home and am here for them. We talk with our kids endlessly about the importance of education. It's hard on my kids, because they do get good grades, and work hard for them, and their peers make fun of them for it. The only thing I can do is explain to them that those kids will go no where in life, and that thier education will take them where ever they want to go. Not how they dressed, or who they went out with. Not much consolation.... I know...I just explain that after high school, the only placethey are going to see those kids who tease them now, is when they are ordering their fast food..... The teasers will be the ones saying, would you like fries with that?
Aenimal
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4 posted 04-16-2004 10:54 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Lesson plans that capture their audience using modern media. Revamped textbooks, textbooks interesting enough that students may actually want to read beyond the assigned chapters. Modern film/documentaries rather than grainy and boring educational films, most of which are outdated and irrelevant. Of course this all takes Money and therefore funding is always the main issue. Other than that more dedicated teachers. Smaller classrooms. Safer environments.
Brad
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5 posted 04-17-2004 08:25 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Better students?
Ron
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6 posted 04-17-2004 12:03 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Better students?

Amen!
Essorant
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7 posted 04-17-2004 02:13 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

School is a hastemaker today.  It is a modern hare trying to outstrip the old turtle. But In the end, and in the large picture of things, it still never does.  Those that practice patience and take more time to learn, always fare to better grace, both teachers and students together.
Aenimal
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8 posted 04-17-2004 05:11 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

How about a compromise? Somewhere in between jaded, boring, uncaring teachers and spoiled, disobedient, kids with chips on their shoulders.
Brad
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9 posted 04-17-2004 05:25 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Why? The basic premise of the Keith quote isn't teacher v. student, it's student v. student.

berengar
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10 posted 04-17-2004 11:41 PM       View Profile for berengar   Email berengar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for berengar

Right.  Teachers often have less impact on the lives of adolesents than one might suppose (and today more so than ever).  My thinking is how does one improve the school culture.  Curriculum reform, more interesting teachers, better textbooks etc are definetely a plus, but do they distract us from the real problems??
Ron
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11 posted 04-18-2004 01:07 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

The more difficult problems didn't start in the schools, and likely won't be solved in the schools.

By the time a child is five or six years old, the lucky ones have already been taught a love of learning that even the mediocrity of today's school system will never squash. You want your child to read? Let them see you reading. The disdain for education doesn't begin with the children, but with the parents of the children, and can't be later replaced with platitudes about the value of education and getting ahead. There is no value to education. Only to learning. And that love has to be acquired early.

The lucky ones will be given a love of learning. The unlucky ones will learn the hate, usually of self, and the cruelty of which Keith laments. And they will grow up and have kids and too often renew the cycle.

We should certainly strive to make our schools more useful. I'm not at all certain that means we should try to make them easy, or even comfortable. Struggle, I think, isn't something to be avoided, but rather something for which we should be prepared. It only becomes a problem when the preparation is so poorly conceived and implemented.

The only way to better teach the kids is to better teach the parents first.
Aenimal
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12 posted 04-18-2004 03:29 AM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

I agree with everything that's been said here. Without a doubt, the excess of external distractions and some horrible parenting contributing to the problem. But you can't completely absolve teachers as a part of the problem.

quote:
Right.  Teachers often have less impact on the lives of adolesents than one might suppose (and today more so than ever).


That's the problem. Which teachers have had the most impact on your schoolastic and personal lives? Those indifferent about students/subject/lesson plan, or those who passionate about them? There are too many teachers in North America who basically punch in and out and call it a days work.
Brad
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13 posted 04-18-2004 05:20 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Disagree. We are talking about high school. Stop pretending anybody in high school can not control themselves.

If they can't, what's the point of high school?

berengar
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14 posted 04-18-2004 07:53 AM       View Profile for berengar   Email berengar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for berengar

Aenimal,
Better teachers always help, but I would hesitate to lay the bulk of the blame for any shortcomings on their doorstep - re Ron's point about parenting.
But, I can't help but wonder, aren't the problems identified and solutions proposed predicated on the notion that adolescents are children?  It's always someone else's responsibility and so on.
One new avenue of exploration is to suggest that adolescents are more like adults - and should be treated like adults.  Once this new notion is tested might we not see improvements?
Local Rebel
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15 posted 04-18-2004 12:34 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I don't see Keith's argument as being inapplicable to any point in the history of our educational system -- at least not the last 100 years.

We're (modern Western Culture) the first society to educate on a massive scale using the 'school' model as opposed to the apprentice/mentor model that was used previously.  Both have strengths and weaknesses.  We need to garner the strengths from both and exploit the weaknesses.
Aenimal
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16 posted 04-18-2004 02:16 PM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal

Look, I'm not pointing fingers at teachers and away from students. I offered the other side of the coin to the better students comment. What makes a bad student is the issue and I disagree that it's simply a matter of teenagers being belligerent,defiant and lazy.

There is no one cause that stands above the rest(except perhaps funding), the problem is a culmination of all factors mentioned in this thread. It's a horrible cycle.

It begins with parenting, if there is no respectable structure in the home then there is no respected structure for children outside it. Sadly, many parents would rather sit there children in front of televisions than talk to them.

Which leads to the effect of media (I started the thread on this note albeit in an undisciplined rant)on young minds. This shouldn't be taken likely, it's a serious problem that more than any other culture, North American children face. Faced with and exploited by mixed messages, what kind of children are we molding? By the time they are in school they're already tainted, not the raw blocks of clay teachers would love to shape.

And therein lies the next problem. Many teachers think it's too late and suffer from an, I'll teach, if they listen fine, if they don't it's their loss, attitude. This is where passionate teachers, are required. Willing to show leadership, drive through those intial obstacles and send a clear message to the students. If a teacher is lazy, bored and indifferent well then it follows that their students will be too.

Finally, yes, it does lie upon the students, because in the end it's up to them to conquer these challenges. It's up to them to take those messages and learn.

The North American school system is spiralling out of control not from one but ALL of these factors because they are all linked. Just as LR said it's time to garner strengths and exploit weaknesses in the systems.
Brad
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17 posted 04-18-2004 09:09 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I don't have a clue as to what LR could mean by that statement. But I do think that we're spending a lot of time avoiding pinning the blame on the ones who deserve it most: the students.

Aenimal,

I just don't think that teens should be sheltered from personal responsibility. The more we give reasons, the more we seem to be trying to do that.

Aenimal
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18 posted 04-19-2004 12:29 AM       View Profile for Aenimal   Email Aenimal   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Aenimal


I could argue your sheltering teachers. grins. I'm not sheltering them Brad, I stated that in the end it's up to the students to decide and learn. I just think ignoring the problems that surround them and the school system is unsound.

Children are suggestable, and being inundated with a billion conflicting messages from home, society and poor teachers is bound to cause problems.

Though in the end, it rests on choices made by the student, you have to consider what kind of state their decision making process is in after facing all the outside factors mentioned?
Christopher
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19 posted 04-19-2004 12:38 AM       View Profile for Christopher   Email Christopher   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Christopher

Studies show that kids who go to preschool are more likely to do better in later years - including finishing High School and going on to college.
Local Rebel
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20 posted 04-19-2004 12:54 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Forgive my shibboleth.

Exploiting a weakness means turning it into a strength or using it to advantage.  Business terminology.  From the discipline of Constraint Management.  One recognizes that certain weaknesses cannot be eliminated and that a system can only be as strong (fast, efficient, competitive) as it's weakest constituent  -- like links in a chain.  If we can't eliminate the weak link we turn it into our strength, allowing the stronger constituents to support it.

Students are responsible.  Parents are responsible.  Teachers are responsible.  Fixing blame doesn't fix problems.

If there are systemic problems in education we can't expect students to fix those problems.  It is ostensibly the responsibility of the school administration -- who work for the electorate -- therefore -- it is all of our responsibility.  

If the school system as set up creates the environment for adverse social pressure among students that did not exist in tribal systems then it is our responsibility to address that weakness.  Teachers teaching algebra or Spanish aren't going to fix it though.  Their job is to teach algebra and Spanish.  

Students can only function inside the formal and informal structure with which they are faced.  Surely we have the power, tenacity, wisdom, and intellect to address the problems of peer pressure and social dysfunction.

Lack of funding (although I think a pretty weak excuse) may be a weakness that we can't eliminate.  Linked to that may be a ratio of students to teachers that excaserbates the problem.  Add in other factors such as harrasment fears and it could become a sticky wicket in some instances.

Looking to the resources that are available to fix the problem the overwhelming majority of human capital resides in the student body.  Perhaps high schools should be making structural changes to exploit the natural tendancy for 'cliques' to emerge -- and avoid the down side by creating it's own cliques (or tribes) -- I don't know how it's done in other places but I've long thought the homeroom concept is seriously flawed -- also the concept of being a member of a class designation or a grade -- there are requirements to complete for graduation -- a student could merely be a member of a team, tribe, or core group that would be integrated with students of all socio-economic bacgrounds and age groups by design. Older students could mentor younger students in social matters.  Smarter students would offer help to weaker students in learning how to learn.  Reciprically -- part of the curriculum could incorporate teaching all students how to mentor other students.

I'm sure there are other similar ideas that could exploit the system.  
berengar
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21 posted 04-19-2004 02:14 AM       View Profile for berengar   Email berengar   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for berengar

"Children are suggestable, and being inundated with a billion conflicting messages from home, society and poor teachers is bound to cause problems."

I agree - except it might be a good idea to stop using the word 'children' in our lexicon.  After all, we're talking about individuals who are biologically capable of producing children of their own as well as being economically self-supporting.  They are 'adult' by definition.
Essorant
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22 posted 04-19-2004 11:39 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

The Best Schools:

Home
Grandparents House
Church
Library
Museum

A group of Fish


The Worst Schools:

School
jbouder
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23 posted 04-19-2004 12:25 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Brad:

Actually, your "better students" response doesn't surprise me (as it comes from an educator).  If you share my opinion that all children have the capacity to learn, however, then the child's failure to learn can not be heaped on his or her shoulders alone.  At some point in the child's educational history, something broke down.

Perhaps the social structure of public schools has contributed to the problem, but I can't help being reminded of Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind" and wondering if it is not WHERE children are being taught as much WHAT they are being taught (or not being taught) that is the bigger problem.

As I noted above, parental involvement in their child's education is absolutely essential to the child realizing his or her potential.  Similarly, the hubris of educators who have seized for themselves the "presumption of expertise" in knowing how to teach and what ought to be taught needs to undergo serious scrutiny.  Parents who blindly accept that educators are going to do a good job educating their kids and fail to be active participants in the education process do so at their child's own peril.

Brad, what I hope to see from you is no different from what I hope to see from any academic - a recognition of the need for objectively proven education methodologies and a safety net of supports for those children who are often written off as uneducable for any number of reasons.  "Better students" are a product of a quality education.  The shortage of "better students" is indicative of a shortage of quality education.

Jim
Brad
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24 posted 04-19-2004 07:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

High school should become more like college.

Give them the choice to learn and see what happens.
 
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