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'