Thursday, October 11, 2007

Opening classrooms

Scott Elias wrote an article on how classrooms are isolated from public scrutiny, and commented that administrators need to be up and walking around in order to minimize this. When I read it, I just had to ask how classrooms can become more open to the outsiders who have the largest stake in what is going on in the classroom - the parents. He had some good ideas involving using the web to track assignments using prepackaged software, perhaps like Moodle, or blogs, vlogs, wikis, to allow parents to log in and really see what is going on in the classroom. That's a great goal, but I'm not sure how we get from here to there. Do we rely on the individual classroom teachers to create their own blogs? Does the school district administration have to decree that this be done? Do the administrators of the individual schools have a say? I'm not sure.

I've lost the link now, but I remember reading an article about a teacher who had to stop blogging because an adminstrator disapproved. As long as we have that kind of attitude in the school system, we're not going to have any change, that's for sure.

Designing Wiser

Kevin Makice has started a series on Designing Wiser, sort of the application to his field of study of a workshop by early childhood educator Bev Bos. (Should be interesting, but be careful following that link if you use Internet Explorer as the site is temperamental). Part 1 concerns instilling a sense of belonging. Difficult to do in a public school setting where the class sizes are so large; twenty kids in my child's kindergarten class, and even the brand new New Technology High School that is opening next year in Bloomington will have 100 students to just four teachers. As always, private schools are better off, but I can see another application of the theme at Monroe County Martial Arts. The teachers there take pride in knowing each and every student's name, and you'll often see Mrs. Scott pull a student off to the side for several minutes of one-on-one instruction while one of the higher-ranking belts takes the rest of the kids through drills. Even in the teenage/adult classes you'll see exercises and drills that are clearly designed towards team-building. Every student with a few months of training, from the five-year-olds to the old fogies, like me, gets the sense of being among friends, and the amount of learning that gets done is heightened because of it.

(I love the martial art belt system, and I think schools should give out belts in geometry and social studies instead of grades. Not least because in order to get a higher belt, a certain amount of instruction to lower belts is required, which would be a great thing to transfer to a classroom setting.)