Thursday, November 18, 2010

Solutions for educating America

Have you ever had a job that you loved so much that you didn’t care about how much money you were making? Do our teachers really love their job after 5 years? I would venture to say a majority of them don’t. My wife is going to school to become a High School English teacher, so she has a lot of friends in the teaching field. There are some fundamental problems with our education system that need to be changed. These changes can be made without government intervention, spending more money, or more bureaucracy.

One of the biggest problems she has talked with me about is the fact that her High School math teacher was fresh out of college and had a love for teaching and making a difference. After 8 years though, her teacher has given up on the students for various reasons. My wife’s professor in college was originally in marketing before he became a college instructor. He went into the teaching field because he wanted to pass on his knowledge. He still loves teaching, but when he has a rough day, he reads my wife’s thank you note to him.

I think the major problem with elementary education today is that the teachers are so beat down from the environment that they’re put into, that it becomes discouraging and they give up. The problem is that most of them stay in the field and allow the system to be broken. In colleges you have students who actually have more of a desire to learn, so it’s not as hard on the teachers to stay enthusiastic about their job.

Elementary teachers have to deal with upset parents, students who don’t care about learning or have just been turned off to and by the education system. This in turn plays into the teachers losing their enthusiasm for the job. We all know that teachers get paid somewhat well, but not market rate for their degree, and they put a lot of their own personal time into their work. When anyone feels that the work they do either goes un noticed or is being done in vein, it really discourages you. So, why would teachers be any different?

After talking with my wife for several hours there are some very simple solutions, but it requires people actually making a conscious effort. Education is something that needs to be worked for, not just given. Growing up I liked making money on the side, my dad would always tell me when I thought that school sucked, that school was my job. When I looked at school as an actual job or work for me and that the reward would be more opportunities to be successful, it was more important to me.

Here is my list of realistic changes that can be made without spending extra money:

1. Parents, you need to respect teachers. When your child is disrespectful to the teacher, you should back up the teacher In any instance where the teachers actions are not immoral, illegal, or unethical.

2. Teachers don’t need more pay and benefits. I’m sure teachers are just the same as you and me. They want to know that the job they are doing is making a difference. After all, these teachers are molding the minds of our future generation, so their work is one of the most important jobs in society. We as a society need to show teachers how important we think they are. I think a good start would be requiring every student before they graduate High School to write a thank you note to the teacher that inspired them the most.

3. Students tend to be fickle when it comes to learning. I would suggest allowing kids from middle school to high school to create their own curriculum. My mother in law in high school was able to substitute a bowling class in place of P.E. The students were required to write lesson plans and come up with ways to gauge their progress. My wife has even suggested coming up with an alternative to biology class because she thinks it’s boring, but there is a way to learn the same material in a different environment. Put the kids in charge of their education and this will foster a more productive learning environment.

4. One thing my wife and I like about the college we’ve attended is the smaller classes. This allows the teacher to spend more time fostering the learning of the students vs. the current system in public schools where teachers have up to 35 kids per class. My wife took a business math class where there were only 4 students. The class was not only able to make it through the whole book, but the instructor was able to be more creative in teaching the class and I would venture to say that class learned more than the class with 20 students.

5. I know that we don’t have the money to build more schools or hire more teachers, but there are ways to make this happen. I know in my local school district they paid the top man $1 million a year which was considered cheap to run a school district. Why not put the power locally in the principals and cut out the top level administration. This would allow up to 30 or more teachers to be hired without asking for more money and raising taxes. Another thing to cut class sizes would be to offer day and night classes. In high school I was a morning person, but my best friend preferred to sleep until noon. Why not have so many slots per day and night classes to make sure classes are more even. If we still needed more teachers we could cut out school busses and give incentives to parents to car pool which could save even more money and hire more teachers.

6. Let the children from middle school to high school choose what they want to learn. I had a friend when I lived in San Francisco that was raised non authoritarian. He had his doctorate by the time he was 21 because of the way they allowed students to learn. The basic theory is that all students will learn everything they need to learn, but only when they’re ready. My friend hated math, but when computers came out in the 80’s he wanted to learn more about the programs and how they worked. In order to program you must learn math, he then developed a desire to learn math. He retired from Oracle about 10 years ago.

Our current system is broke and there are many economical ways to fix things without raising taxes, hiring more bureaucrats, and having the government control the whole system. I was inspired to become a lifelong learner about 3 years ago when I started researching UFO’s and religion. The things that I learned were so interesting that all I do is strive to learn more about other various subjects. Education is important to the evolution of society, so why not have it be interesting. We are a wealthy society, so why not allow that wealth to be spent wisely on education of our future generations?


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