Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Magic Wand

On Thursday, Teachers are Talking hosted David Warlick as our guest. He answered questions about changes he's seen in the classroom, a bit about politics, and a great deal about the future of education. And then he posed a question of his own. "If you had a magic wand," he said, "no obstacles...what would you make happen for all teachers?"

Now this is a powerful question. The question really asks one to think about sweeping changes, huge reform, major differences in education. So I wave my wand and what happens?

First, my wand would eliminate state testing caused by NCLB. I have watched, over my 20+ years of teaching, some amazing teachers move from making learning fun to making learning all about preparing for a test. Now I don't believe things have to be this way and I don't think they are in my classroom but, even in my own classroom, we talk "test". And I hate taking time out of learning to talk "test". I do believe we need to be held accountable for our students learning but there has to be a better way than using a test that doesn't really measure learning.

Second, my wand would put two educators in each classroom. And let's throw in an aide also. This is the setting I work in right now. There is a regular educator (with a special ed. background) and a special educator in the room full time. And we have a full time aide, there to support children and help with the classroom minutiae. This setting is ideal. We teach ALL children on their level, giving all students the support and enrichment they need for every subject. Having a second teacher in the room allows for small group and individual instruction to occur all day, not just when I have a moment.

Third, technology would be available and working all day. One to one laptops would be on hand at all times, the interactive whiteboard would be running, no sites would be blocked - enabling us to use any tool available online, the cameras and digital recorders would have charged batteries, with extras in the charger, and the webcam would be on and accessible.

Fourth, there would be ample time every day to plan with my co-teacher, meet with parents, post podcasts, edit videos, etc. David suggested 3-4 hours a day. I am not sure I need that much time. But one day a week with no students would cover it. Or an hour long prep each day with an hour long duty free lunch would be great. I have now an hour long duty free lunch and a 35 - 45 minute prep each day. It is almost enough time.

Fifth, all teachers would have to set up a PBL classroom. No more using textbooks and worksheets, no more having students sit at desks for hours listening to lectures. Children will be engaged and energized working in cooperative groups to create - and demonstrate their knowledge. And it would be great if those cooperative groups could be outside the four walls of the classroom.

So there are my "magic wand" wishes. The reality is that I have a pretty ideal classroom situation. While there are things I would love to change, most of it I just love. And so do the children. So my magic wand would offer what I have to all of you. Can you create the ideal classroom? Have you?

Image: 'Four heads are better than one'


nhill said...

I think that you have covered all the bases. I would love to have your set up. I think that I would add some items. I would love to be able to take students on field trips. Have bus will travel. I would allow them to have digital devices to record their trips and access more information while out in the community. =) If we can have anything...then I guess I am greedy and I want everything. Can I have an Ipod for every student too?

Brian said...

Wow, 2 full time teachers AND a full time aide!? I get an ESL teacher for 35 minutes a day, and now I lose that to this new "interventions" program we have to do every day. So another 30 minutes a day sliced from the schedule, another lesson to plan, and now I have virtually NO push-in help. I had ESL for 50 minutes during language arts before. Our sped program is pull out for reasons I can't go into here and now my ESL program will essentially be a pull out program too. Are there job openings on Long Island? : )

lnitsche said...

I'm waving my magic wand and wishing and dreaming...
I want my students to see learning, not see school. I want them to be passionate about what they are learning, not to see it as just one more assignment to accomplish and one more test to take. I want each student to have mentors- yes plural- who will encourage them and support them. I want them to have their very own PLN with members who cross generations of age and expertise. I want students to be able to explore the world in all of its glory and difficulties and be inspired to make a difference. Just think if we shared our students with the world what they would learn and accomplish!

TLind said...

I would love to teach in your dream school! I would also add that with my wand there would be assistive programs for any student that needed one--no crazy paperwork or approval--just if you need it, you got it!

Love the fieldtrip idea too--let's put all those portable tools to work outside the school setting!

Recorded Books said...

Great post! Though some of them were covered here, what are the most challenging things you deal with every day? Perhaps a post for another day?