Klea Scharberg

Isn't It Just Common Sense?

It makes sense that social and emotional factors affect cognitive learning throughout early childhood and adolescence. We know that not every child learns how to walk at the same time, reads at the same level, or behaves in the same way. We talk about standards and assessments with regards to testing and where children should be at the end of each school period, so doesn't it make sense that developmental milestones (and whether every child has met them) are taken into consideration?

We talk about multiple intelligences, differentiated instruction, and personalized learning—in short, meeting the needs of each student. Is too much reliance on standards and assessments interfering with providing a personalized learning experience that respects the developmental stage of each child? And are we providing teachers with the time, resources, knowledge, and assistance they need to juggle the responsibilities they have to meet each child’s learning needs? Is it fair to the teacher and student?

At last month's press conference to release the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education’s policy recommendations on how the developmental sciences can prepare educators to improve student achievement, Iowa high school English teacher and 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling shared stories from her classroom and talked about the importance of empowering teachers.

NCATE Press Conference, 10/05/2010 - S. Brown-Wessling from NCATE on Vimeo.

It might be easy to think: Why don't teachers just do this? ... So much of this seems kind of intuitive; so much of it seems kind of like common sense. But here's the thing about living in a school: We have 'teaching and learning' and we have 'school.' And there are some times when these things intersect, but there are a lot times when they don't. So there's a lot of times [when teachers' lives] are full of school clutter; right? They're full of bells and paperwork and little, tiny activities and necessities that take all the minutes of the day. And when we do not free our teachers from those kinds of moments, we don't allow them to be intuitive. We don't ... empower them to use that kind of common sense that we can all kind of from afar stand back and think, why not?

What do you think?

Comments (5)

Isn’t It Just Common Sense? « Whole Child Bl

November 6, 2010

[...] Isn’t It Just Common Sense? « Whole Child Blog – Whole Child Education. [...]

Jessica Reeves

November 8, 2010

Amen and hallelujah! This is just the thing many teachers need to see…we can’t just teach worksheets anymore—we have to be relevant and fresh. We are not paid to be entertainment, but if we are lecturing and noting and quizzing and then wondering why they aren’t getting it, we have to think deeper. I blog on this and many other topics on:
http://msjesssicareeves.edublogs.org

Esmé Comfort

November 10, 2010

As a school board trustee, I seek to free teachers from those tasks which do not help learning - kids’ learning and teachers’ learning. Tell us what those obstacles are, please.

Johanna Soliday

November 12, 2010

Teachers are not just being asked to teach, they have to take responsibility for the following:
Attendance; keeping track of lunch and/or breakfast needs; fundraising activities; health needs (including asthma attacks, timing of Ritalin and other medications, allergic reactions, broken bones); being stand-in parents; motivating children to do homework without caregiver backup; dealing with behavior problems; helping children with learning difficulties; keeping children attentive who are not getting enough sleep or food or who have ADHD/ADD; planning lessons after their workday is over; paying for things out of their own pockets; keeping in regular touch with parents; dealing with hostile parents; doing playground duty during their lunch breaks; getting the class to different activities and more. All of this needs to be accomplished within precise time slots.

A lot of this can be taken care of with thorough preparation, setting up the classroom layout well, having a behavior management system and rules in place, and training the students for smooth transitions between activities.

However, there are added requirements of NCLB to put things over the top. Getting the majority of a class to do well on standardized testing - a one size fits all approach - means that things get necked down to just a few key areas. The district I’m in spends from January through March (almost a third of the school year) getting children ready for these tests - one fifth grade teacher told me she did not do any science and very little social studies last year because the students needed so much help with preparation.

Many standards are totally unrealistic for the population of the school, as well as what can feasibly be covered during a school year.

For instance, the school I am working in has many children who do not speak English at home, and up to a third of the students are transient each year. Many cannot read basic vocabulary in English in fourth grade. A good proportion do not know their multiplication tables and are still counting on their fingers at this grade level, or cannot subtract or divide simple numbers.

Most of the standards at this grade level assume competence in all these things. If the children do not understand what they are reading on a test, how can they perform well in either language arts or math, let alone any other subject? No wonder these kids have trouble staying motivated.

I think any politician presuming to set up education policy should be mandated to teach one of today’s classrooms for a month, with the stipulation that certain standards need to be covered, and that they need to ensure that every child understands the material covered. Oh, and they need to be held accountable based on how well their students do on testing at the end.

I believe salaries would be tripled and teachers held in much higher esteem if this were to actually happen.

Katie Myles

November 17, 2010

Often teachers must learn to free themselves to meet the needs of the students. I discovered that integrating methods of instructions in a given lesson brought about more success in learning than using a single method.
Application to everyday living gives meaning to learning.

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