(1) JuliaMJK is right about most adults not knowing how classrooms are different from when we were in school. There is a major focus on EVERYONE learning right now -- not for the joy of learning, but in order to succeed in college, or in high school, or in middle school, or in the next grade.
(2) Shop classes, family studies, personal finance, civics, and other courses with real-life relevance are too rare. The strongest students AND the struggling ones could benefit from having more options.
(3) In the years since I began teaching, people's support for public education has declined. It's crucial to our democracy, but seems invisible to those who don't currently have children in school. It is disheartening but pervasive -- schools and educators are criticized from many angles.
(I'm raising my hand)
Yes, please, I would like to inform - as best I can - the discussion. I am a high school Language Arts teacher in Portland Public. I am in my third year of teaching, though I am far from my twenties. This is my second career and, as such, I have a different perspective on both the profession, its supporters, and its critics.
I would also highly recommend Linda Christiansen: a long time educator, leader, activist, and (currently) teacher of teachers at Lewis and Clarke Grad School Writing Program.
In fact, there are a host of extraordinary teachers - my colleagues - who should be part of this discussion. Please contact me and I will provide more information.
The TAG show was great! One speaker suggested that parents volunteer to teach TAG programs. That has promise, though it is hard to find a parent with the right combination of knowledge, teaching skills, time, and commitment.
On such parent volunteer teacher I would strongly recommend for this follow-up session is Kathy Hall here in Corvallis. She has volunteer-taught middle-school advanced math in the public school system and a local private school. She has a Ph.D. in statistics and works as a statistician at Hewlett-Packard. She sits on the Oregon Mathematics Education Council (OMEC) and is its past president.
About her perspectives:
* Through HP, what industry needs our graduates to know in math and science;
* Through OMEC, what qualifications Oregon needs in its math teachers, and why our state has great difficulty getting highly qualified math teachers.
* Through teaching and researching learning styles, she has found that university math professors tend to have a specific rare learning style, and teach to that rather than to the mainstream learning styles that public math teachers need to address.
* Her 17-year old son has high-functioning autism/Asperger's Syndrome, and like many such kids, is highly talented in math but is alienated by public school. A recent study found that 1 out of every 40 school kids in Corvallis has some form of autism! Kathy finds that public school teachers here are generally unprepared and unsupported to recognize, properly cope with and teach such kids.
She is also my wife. She can be reached during the day through the HP front desk at (541) 715-2000; or contact me.
Sandy McCroskey is a retired ESL teacher. She keeps her hand in it by training new ESL teachers. Contact me if you want to get her contact info.
Have you thought about talking with people who teach students who fell through the cracks of the high school system? A visit with any community college developmental composition program would be a huge eye-opener for anyone who wonders what happens when high school students graduate without being ready for college-freshman writing. This is a huge challenge for the students and the instructors. Having taught gifted high school students and unprepared college students, I can say with great assurance that the gifted are quite easy to teach by comparison.
Sadly, I missed the show talking about TAG -- for me, growing up in California, the GATE program was an all-day, every day separate class, and so it simply was my experience with public education from 3rd to 5th grade. I think that it was a very good basic education that would be a great place to start for anyone -- not just those who are identified as having certain "gifts" and "talents". For me, though I had done well in school before that time because I simply knew I should, I was pretty bored and didn't care all that much, but in the GATE program the interactive learning and focus on critical thinking and analysis engaged me and caused me to love learning. I think all students, regardless of IQ or performance on aptitude tests, would succeed better in such an environment. To my understanding, this would be in direct contrast to the current policy for the educational system as well as the economic shortfalls that have the net effect of discouraging creativity in teaching and learning. I would like to hear others' experiences of what worked for themselves or their children. I would also appreciate a discussion on how, as others have mentioned here, parents, teachers, and administrators, and even kids themselves, might be able to work within the current system, or change the current system, to be more effective and creative in providing true education in the public system.
It seems there are a lot of people with contact info. Does this allow you to contact us, or is there a specific place you would like us to contact you?
I'm a former public school teacher helping run an alternative school in SE Portland. I'm very excited about any discussion that raises the public dialogue about the experiences of youth, parents, and teachers inside and outside of classrooms. Too often conversations about public education are simplified into conversations about funding, testing, and people for or against things. The conversations we need to be having as community members are about how the day to day experiences of our youth align with what we widely share as our highest interests for them.
I would love to participate in a roundtable discussion that brings together public school teachers, youth, parents, and folks participating in alternatives like ours - into constructive conversations about what best serves youth, their families, and our communities. I don't think there is an easy answer - or a "right way" - but I do think this conversation is of tremendous value to the Oregon community. Thanks for considering giving this conversation the airtime it deserves.
Scott Nine, MSW
The Village Free School
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