Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Teachers are not magicians.

Teachers are not Magicians

Democracy is a wonderful system of government.  We believe that all men (and hopefully women too) are created equal.   That mean equal in the eyes of the law.   If the intent of the framers was to describe how we were created, they would have used the adverb “equally”.   I am just so sure the fathers of our country knew their grammar. 
As it is we are in no way equal to each other.  We are tall, short, thin, fat, musical, artistic, and/or athletic.  We are in every way different from each other.  Mostly we do not deny these differences, except in the area of children’s abilities and intelligence.  In that arena we insist we are all equal or at least would be equal if teachers just taught us well enough. 
For many decades Baltimore County, Maryland had school program for gifted and talented students (G&T).   The teachers were trained to help students utilize their superior cognitive abilities.   Projects were designed to push creative thinking.   Children frequently were a year or more above grade level.  Then equality moved in.
Now those children are mixed into heterogeneously grouped classes and teachers are expected to group kids according to ability within the class and teach each group accordingly.  This plan is a terrible idea for lots of reasons.  The smart kids (dare I use the word smart!) are being taught by a teacher who has neither the special skills nor the time to actualize their abilities.  Their abilities will demand the teacher’s attention.   The lowest achieving kids in the group will also demand the teacher’s attention.  These children need a teacher with a different set of skills.  They need a teacher who can break learning down and present multiple ways to learn the same topic.  That, too, takes time.   Then there is the so called middle group of children.  Like the middle child in a family, they are neither the smartest (there is that word again) nor the most challenged.  They will get the least amount of time.  That is possible because most of the learning materials are aimed straight at them so the teacher will not need much time to prepare individually for these kids. 
The school system explains that in the old G&T model children “got the golden ticket and would ride the train from 3rd grade to 12th.”   Evidently that is a bad thing although he did not explain why except to say the chances were low that you could board that golden train later in your school career.   It seems to me that problem could be fixed by just giving more average to low average kids opportunities to grow.  

Heterogeneous grouping is bad for everyone, except the politicians who like the spin of saying all kids are equal.  All students should be given an equal opportunity to learn to their full potential.  That means have teachers with the skill set and the time to teach them in ways that will enhance their achievement.   This plan serves no ones best interest and probably hurts some kids.   But every student will get lots of experience waiting for the teacher to make her rounds until she gets to them.  But since we think teachers are magicians maybe she can materialize into multiple selves. 

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