Sunday, November 13, 2011

Talking Points #8

"Tracking: Why Schools Need to Take a Better Route" by Jeannie Oakes

"Learning tasks consisted most often of memorizing and repeating answers to the teacher." I find this to be a huge problem in today's educational system. There's a difference between learning something and just regurgitating information. For example, in my math class, I actually learn new things, and I remember them long after we've discussed it. However, in my Political Science class, I merely memorize the necessary information needed that we'll be tested on, and once I've taken the test, I immediately forget it, just because of the way the professor teaches. It's no different in elementary school. Students should be educated, not just taught to parrot the teacher.

"In low-ability classes, for example, teachers seem to be less encouraging and more punitive, placing more emphasis on discipline and behavior and less on academic learning." This relates to my Service Learning experience. The Interventions that my fellow tutors and I help with are divided into 3 parts: green, yellow, and red. (Side note: I still use the Oxford comma. I refuse to not use it.) Anyway, we help the "yellow" students, who have "average" skills, while the green and red students ("above average" and "below average", respectively) are separated from the group to receive special attention. Although I tutor the "average" students, I still find it difficult to keep them focused and make sure they're playing the game correctly. They're focused more on winning when it should be just focusing on the educational value.

"Unless teachers and administrators believe and expect all students to learn well, they will be unlikely to create school and classroom conditions where students believe in their own ability and exert the effort it takes to succeed." I couldn't have said it better. How do we expect students to do well if we don't believe in them? If we're just as apathetic as they are, then we might as well not be teaching and they might as well not waste their time in school. I remember when I was in 4th grade, I had a math teacher named Mr. Hubbard. I was alright at math at the time, but once we learned about subtracting and having to take away from zero, I couldn't do it. I just didn't get it, and I didn't care. Mr. Hubbard did, however, and he took the extra time needed to help me to understand. He sent home a note to my mom, along with some practice worksheets, and advised her to watch me practice and make corrections. Once I finished the worksheets, I understood completely. Since then, I've had very little trouble in math, and it quickly became my favorite subject. If Mr. Hubbard didn't believe in the fact that I could learn how to subtract from zero, I wouldn't have my love of math. It can be done, we can teach our students, and we can help give them the confidence necessary to overcome any educational obstacle.

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