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The DeVos tweet about what classrooms look like--is making me question myself

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Two, perhaps unrelated, comments on the article and the photos.  

 

1.  I don't think public is a bad option.  Some classrooms, and some teachers and some students... are a bad combo in public school.  I will say the same of some parents and some kids in some environments for homeschool.  Choose the option where pros outweigh cons.  AND remember educational outcome is not the only metric for judging schooling choice.  Some families may take world view, safety issues, peer issues (bullying, value systems, etc.), family scheduling, family time... into account and not just education.  

 

2.  Every time I hear a teacher talk about peers leading peers... I think of the blind leading the blind.  While I do think there is value in collaborative projects as one way of learning about collaboration, it is definitely not my main vehicle for educating my kids.  In my mind, it's a sort of warm fuzzy touchy feely "education" that doesn't add up to much actual learning  most of the time.  (Mandatory disclaimer about special kids and special teachers and etc.).  So when I see pictures of kids peer educating, it does not inspire me.  

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I don't know that unschooling really happens in a classroom with a lot of kids, though, Poppy.  There are a couple of private schools here that try and replicate it, with varying success, but really, unless the child to teacher ratio is very small, close to homeschool size, I don't know that it really happens much at the elementary level.

Edited by Bluegoat
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I am not even sure what kind of point she wants to make.

because honestly: sitting in circles on carpets in classrooms cluttered with distracting colorful posters on every square inch is overrated and not a measure of the quality of education. I have not seen evidence that all this stuff produces better results.

Sitting in rows of desks in classrooms that are sparsely decorated, but being taught by teachers who have actual subject expertise can produce a wonderful education. To get a stellar education you need a blackboard, paper and pencil, and an inspiring, competent teacher.

 

I do agree. Our school is being rebuilt and will have all kinds of fancy shared learning environments etc. (right now it is mostly traditional rows of desks with teacher up front aside of falling down around them). Not sure I am too happy about it.

 

Older son went to a Montessori for elementary school and didn't much care for it (too distracting/unstructured). He certainly hasn't complained about the more traditional set-up when he switched. Both boys complain about teachers that do a lot of "learning circles" etc.  Also, there were major discipline problems in 7/8/9th grade in my son's class. I shudder to think how bad it would have been in a more unstructured environment.

 

For me, the quality of the teachers (both as subject matter experts and as being able to engage the kids) is the important part. The classroom itself is a minor aspect (though it will be nice when they are done rebuilding and there are no more cracks in the wall etc.)

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I personally like very bare classrooms, and the standard setup with desks facing forward. Turns out according to what I looked into, the bare classrooms are best, and the desk arrangement that is best depends what you consider 'on task learning'.

 

 

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/heavily-decorated-classrooms-disrupt-attention-and-learning-in-young-children.html

http://www.corelearn.com/files/Archer/Seating_Arrangements.pdf

 

 

 

Edited by Julie Smith
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I can't agree.  Classrooms in rows, board up front is great for traditional learners-- like me!! My daughter does have ADHD (among other things) and the visual "clutter" is very appealing to her, because she leap from one high-interest item to another and can experiment with a couple ideas in tandum.    Even at home, she prefers learning form "strewing'. She wants me to give her a lot of books, programs, documentaries, games etc.  so she can figure it out herself, put together her ideas and then explain to me what she's learned.

 

I think that's the challenge for  me, I can't complete with a well put together age appropriate classroom.  I do set up experiements, and get a couple dozen library books and all that. I DO think it's better for her to be here, rather than being teased or excluded  because she socially cannot keep up.   I would give so much money for a fully equipped school with an unschooling philosophy. 

 

Except in most classrooms they can't. They are expected to be working on whatever assignment is given for a set length of time. While having all this distractions in view. 

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I am not even sure what kind of point she wants to make.

because honestly: sitting in circles on carpets in classrooms cluttered with distracting colorful posters on every square inch is overrated and not a measure of the quality of education. I have not seen evidence that all this stuff produces better results.

Sitting in rows of desks in classrooms that are sparsely decorated, but being taught by teachers who have actual subject expertise can produce a wonderful education. To get a stellar education you need a blackboard, paper and pencil, and an inspiring, competent teacher.

Yes, as a former elementary teacher, I will tell you that some of the loveliest looking classrooms I saw were the classrooms of young teachers who were enthusiastic but had little in depth knowledge of math and language.

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2. Every time I hear a teacher talk about peers leading peers... I think of the blind leading the blind. While I do think there is value in collaborative projects as one way of learning about collaboration, it is definitely not my main vehicle for educating my kids. In my mind, it's a sort of warm fuzzy touchy feely "education" that doesn't add up to much actual learning most of the time. (Mandatory disclaimer about special kids and special teachers and etc.). So when I see pictures of kids peer educating, it does not inspire me.

Totally agree with this. I despised the math curriculum that our district used. Every lesson had 8 and 9 year olds collaborating on a math problem when what most of them needed was some direct instruction at that age.

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Except in most classrooms they can't. They are expected to be working on whatever assignment is given for a set length of time. While having all this distractions in view.

But as we homeschoolers know well , set learning time is maybe 2-3 hours in a 6 hope day. Lots of float during the day. That was what I observed as a teacher helper in my daughter’s classroom - of course we all know some schools are more restrictive . My limited school shopping experience was that parochial school were the most strict / least self directed option.

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I worked a day each in 20+ different schools last year, so that many different classrooms. It was a mix. Some schools are better than others, no doubt.

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I am not even sure what kind of point she wants to make.

because honestly: sitting in circles on carpets in classrooms cluttered with distracting colorful posters on every square inch is overrated and not a measure of the quality of education. I have not seen evidence that all this stuff produces better results.

Sitting in rows of desks in classrooms that are sparsely decorated, but being taught by teachers who have actual subject expertise can produce a wonderful education. To get a stellar education you need a blackboard, paper and pencil, and an inspiring, competent teacher.

So much this.

 

 

A couple of my elementary school classrooms had lots of floor circle time, rotating through centers, desks arranged in small groups, all 35+ years ago, Time when you are (compelled) to choose an activity with worksheets or hands on things or games might sound good, but if it is still all geared to average and you are not part of the average, it is either frustrating if you’re on one side of average, or boring and pointless if you are on the other. Comfy reading nooks when all the books available are at grade level or slightly above and not necessarily high quality, and you are not supposed to bring in your own books from home, are not superior to reading at a desk or at home on your own couch or hammock.

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A lot of what presents as 'forward thinking' education is, at best, mere fashion, and at worse, fad.

 

I mean, yes, it's very nice to have nice surroundings. It's very nice to have lovely sounding educational programs.

 

Education is an area particularly prone to fads. Where I am, the fad of the decade is '21st Century learning' and 'multiclass instruction' and 'a multi-intelligences approach'.

 

Translation: we're putting in more smartboards, but we won't answer any questions about proven benefits, we've got more kids this year than we expected and no, we didn't bother to actually understand Gardner or the critiques (many) of his theory of intelligence, but it lets us do some drama and art.

 

Classrooms lifted straight out of Pinterest ? Also a fad.

 

Absent deprivation, and present adequate tools for teaching, most children will do fine. And for those who don't ? Well. Pinterest and Gardner aren't going to be much help.

 

Teachers pay for a lot of this stuff themselves; my aunt has always taught in fairly deprived areas, and what she provides in the classroom is stuff the kids have missed out on...books, playdough, props for imaginary games etc. So her kindy kids can at least attempt to catch up with their middle class peers.

 

There doesn't need to be any pressure, however, on teachers who teach comfortably middle class children to provide this kind of thing out of their own pocket.

 

A rather long way of saying - Pinterest is nice, but it's not evidence based practice, which is what teaching needs more of, not beanbags.

 

So feeling bad on the basis of pics ? Nope. Don't even go there. Feel bad if your child could have gone to a school using only evidence based practices, and you faffed about at home with Gardner - sure.

Edited by StellaM
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AMEN!!!!!!

 

I'm so sick of them throwing money at smart boards and computers and iPads and whatever when what they need to spend money on is TEACHERS. That's what matters. A good teacher can teach the basics with paper and pencils. Kindergarteners don't need IPADs to learn.

And then they need to STOP micro-managing those teachers!! I have several good friends who teach in our district. Especially in the jr. high ages, there is so much pre-programmed curricula. Math - all classes in the building have to stay on the same lesson and progress in lock-step!! English - so much pre-programmed stuff that there is very little room to address individual children’s needs. And so on... There are excellent teachers in our district doing some awesome things with the kids - but there is a whole lot of wasted time and effort, also.

 

Anne

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Besides a short stint for a few in elementary school at the beginning of this year, my kids have homeschooled until high school. Then it's two years in a collegiate-style brick and mortar charter highschool (love, love this school model for many reasons- one being lots of AP classes and college courses offered at or through the school) and the last two years at the community college doing "Early College" with lots of support through another charter school. In both the collegiate high school and CC, it's rows facing forward and a dry erase board and teacher/professor in front of the class.

Edited by IfIOnly

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Don’t you know that if the desks are in rows the information can’t get into your head!!!!! Good grief. Stuff like this makes me nuts. I also think they should pay teachers more and make it more lucrative to stay IN the classroom than it is to get “promoted†to admin.

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My dc enjoyed school when the classroom was peaceful and academically where they needed to be.  It doesn't matter where the desks are or what is on the walls or if there are desks or walls. It matters how many students are disengaged, and how many are aggressive about their unwillingness to participate. We've had years where adjacent desks were great - lots of collaboration, lots of discussion with other serious students on the finer points. It only takes one unwilling child or one teacher who is unable to differentiate to wreck the year for 30-35 dc. 

 

  I think DeVos is using language that is deliberately vague, but her point seems to be 1. dc who want to learn should have an appropriate classroom where they can learn 2. zip code shouldn't determine ability to access appropriate instruction .   She uses a lot of jargon,but being involved locally makes it easier for me to decode. I'm also thinking her tech vs industrial remarks are clearing the path for individualized instruction via laptop...that's being used in the crime-ridden poverty district near me, and it is a way out for those who would otherwise be held hostage to poor behavior and low ability teaching. My district doesn't want individualized instruction, so they use alternative school for disruptors and set the fully included curriculum for getting all children  to pass...that ensures  there is no subgroup gapping, but the achievement level is 2 grades below districts with similar demographics who use the grouping by instructional need...and the wealthy just use the multiple study halls to self-study or take the AP online classes.  The 60 minutes interview was remarkable..the interviewer had no problem with depriving the children who went to charters of funding, saying it was theft from those who didn't switch. That is the crux of the issue...those who are not from dysfunctional families are not seen as deserving of academically appropriate instruction. DeVos is saying they are, but doesn't have a PC way of saying or doing. The taxpayer of course wants ROI, and some of them do want public school to end after 6th grade level is acheived.  Me, I'd like to see a national vote.  I'll bet the loudest don't represent the majority, just based on the number voting with their feet in order to get their children to a place where they can learn at their instructional level.

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Huh? No one was saying that we shouldn't fund ALL kids, just that there are those of us who want that funding at true public schools, not charters run by private, for profit companies who have very low accountability and a history of screwing over kids in them, while leaving the ones left behind with even less of an education than they had in the first place. Nothing to do with political correctness. 

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Have you seen this?  DeVos posted a stock image of a classroom and wrote: "Does this look familiar? Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t"  

 

If the classroom-with-blackboard method is so ineffective for teaching, why is it the primary method for most colleges, including the super-expensive Ivies?

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If the classroom-with-blackboard method is so ineffective for teaching, why is it the primary method for most colleges, including the super-expensive Ivies?

 

To be fair, I don't think colleges, even super prestigious ones, are particularly interested in finding The Best Teaching Methods! either. Besides, they probably figure that student who are capable of getting into Harvard or Yale on merit are probably capable of succeeding however they're taught. (And if they're not, oh well. Plenty more students out there.)

 

Which isn't to say that I have any particular opinion on lectures vs. other forms of teaching. Pretty sure a good teacher can find a way no matter how the chairs are arranged - and for a poor teacher, nothing will help.

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We've experienced both sides of the coin now, and yep, there are tradeoffs. I think any good teacher can admit that there are many things about homeschooling that are better. And many homeschoolers can admit that they can't do ALL of the things that a good school/teacher can offer. You just can't have the best of both worlds. So you take a look at your family, the specific kid, and make the best decision you can at the time. 

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If the classroom-with-blackboard method is so ineffective for teaching, why is it the primary method for most colleges, including the super-expensive Ivies?

It is indeed an efficient, inexpensive way to teach highly engaged adults . I’m done corporate training ,and it’s universally done there too.

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I think that "classroom" should be more of a concept of "where specific learning occurs for specific people," and therefore can look very different depending on who is learning and what they are learning. Kind of like "all the world is a stage," so is all the world a classroom with opportunities for learning.

 

And this is precisely where homeschooling has the capacity to be much more flexible for individuals. Homeschool families have a lot more flexibility to go out into the community and learn where ever they want. They aren't limited to staying in the same physical location with the same students and teachers. If they want to line up a few desks in front of a black or white board, they can. If they want to put up colourful posters they can. If they want to sit on a sofa they can. If they want to study nature outside they can. If they want to visit a science lab, they can. The possibilities are endless. 

 

 

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I reconcile it by realizing that while public school has some positives, the overall education and experience my kid is getting is far better in my homeschool.  Take the positives that public school has and see which aspects you can steal.  You won't be able to duplicate everything (you can't give your kid a social group of that size every day, nor access to as many sports), but you can do couches and lighting, if that's one of the things you liked.  Then remind yourself of the positives of your homeschool and why you left in the first place.  There are no perfect places.  There is no such thing as the perfect house, the perfect car, the perfect job, or the perfect school, so we opt for the choice that is the best we can make and make the most of that choice.

Edited by reefgazer

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My kids both hated the grouped desks/pod system.  DD said it was distracting and when I attended her parent-teacher conference in 4th grade, she proudly showed me how she had "...her very own desk, right up in front of the teacher."  ;)  I told her there was a reason for that; the teacher laughed, but DD didn't get the joke.  When DS was in 3rd grade, he used to shuffle his worktable away from the group, to essentially create his own desk; he said the other kids were annoying him, LOL. 

Every picture I've seen recently the desks are grouped in pods, like you said.  Every news story featuring schools they also show desks grouped together and classrooms filled with stuff.   I haven't been inside a classroom myself lately so I have no idea.  Every time I see the grouped thing though I shudder and count my lucky start I didn't endure that.  Not my thing.  Give me uncluttered classrooms and lined up desks! 

 

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My two oldest kids homeschooled all the way through, for the most part. My oldest had a mix of things going on during high school, including one full year of public high school.

 

My youngest homeschooled through fourth grade, and is now in her fourth year of full time public school.

 

She loves her current situation and would never return. But, academically, I have yet to see anything awesome. I see a lot of things that are good enough. Realistically, that's the way it's going to be when one is trying to simultaneously teach a relatively large group of kids with divergent needs. The personalization is just not there and I'm not sure how one would change that.

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My dc enjoyed school when the classroom was peaceful and academically where they needed to be.  It doesn't matter where the desks are or what is on the walls or if there are desks or walls. It matters how many students are disengaged, and how many are aggressive about their unwillingness to participate. We've had years where adjacent desks were great - lots of collaboration, lots of discussion with other serious students on the finer points. It only takes one unwilling child or one teacher who is unable to differentiate to wreck the year for 30-35 dc. 

 

  I think DeVos is using language that is deliberately vague, but her point seems to be 1. dc who want to learn should have an appropriate classroom where they can learn 2. zip code shouldn't determine ability to access appropriate instruction .   She uses a lot of jargon,but being involved locally makes it easier for me to decode. I'm also thinking her tech vs industrial remarks are clearing the path for individualized instruction via laptop...that's being used in the crime-ridden poverty district near me, and it is a way out for those who would otherwise be held hostage to poor behavior and low ability teaching. My district doesn't want individualized instruction, so they use alternative school for disruptors and set the fully included curriculum for getting all children  to pass...that ensures  there is no subgroup gapping, but the achievement level is 2 grades below districts with similar demographics who use the grouping by instructional need...and the wealthy just use the multiple study halls to self-study or take the AP online classes.  The 60 minutes interview was remarkable..the interviewer had no problem with depriving the children who went to charters of funding, saying it was theft from those who didn't switch. That is the crux of the issue...those who are not from dysfunctional families are not seen as deserving of academically appropriate instruction. DeVos is saying they are, but doesn't have a PC way of saying or doing. The taxpayer of course wants ROI, and some of them do want public school to end after 6th grade level is acheived.  Me, I'd like to see a national vote.  I'll bet the loudest don't represent the majority, just based on the number voting with their feet in order to get their children to a place where they can learn at their instructional level.

 

I think you are so far down some propaganda reading material you can't see straight, if that's what you got from that interview. The charters DeVos worked to created in MI failed to help children- hundreds of thousands of children .If you can offer as defense of what she tried to do there.... then you would have done a better job than she did during that interview. This woman is in the Cabinet, for goodness sake.  

 

I didn't start this thread to be political, honestly. I actually  agree with you that zip code shouldn't determine ability to access appropriate instruction. I think it is shameful that school funding is tied to local taxes, and therefore wealthy kids get better schools than poor kids.   There are ways to make things better. But for-profit charters have a pretty clear track record of failure, so far.

 

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Two, perhaps unrelated, comments on the article and the photos.

 

1. I don't think public is a bad option. Some classrooms, and some teachers and some students... are a bad combo in public school. I will say the same of some parents and some kids in some environments for homeschool. Choose the option where pros outweigh cons. AND remember educational outcome is not the only metric for judging schooling choice. Some families may take world view, safety issues, peer issues (bullying, value systems, etc.), family scheduling, family time... into account and not just education.

 

2. Every time I hear a teacher talk about peers leading peers... I think of the blind leading the blind. While I do think there is value in collaborative projects as one way of learning about collaboration, it is definitely not my main vehicle for educating my kids. In my mind, it's a sort of warm fuzzy touchy feely "education" that doesn't add up to much actual learning most of the time. (Mandatory disclaimer about special kids and special teachers and etc.). So when I see pictures of kids peer educating, it does not inspire me.

I actually disagree a bit with the second point. To teach something requires you know and think about it from a different angle. The students on the receiving end get another pass at the information and the teaching students experience a heightened awareness of the lesson. This exercise won’t always work perfectly, but it’s a method worth an occasional visit and can be a worthwhile experience. I’m assuming some preparation is involved and it’s not truly the blind leading the blind.

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I am not even sure what kind of point she wants to make.

because honestly: sitting in circles on carpets in classrooms cluttered with distracting colorful posters on every square inch is overrated and not a measure of the quality of education. I have not seen evidence that all this stuff produces better results.

Sitting in rows of desks in classrooms that are sparsely decorated, but being taught by teachers who have actual subject expertise can produce a wonderful education. To get a stellar education you need a blackboard, paper and pencil, and an inspiring, competent teacher.

For a lot of kids sitting in rows is easier. We had desks in rows with a space all the way round. No one jiggled your desk or stole your pencil or whispered. You could just concentrate on your work.

 

School funding is interesting. NZ being so small we run a centralised system. All taxes go to the governmwnt (we do pay rates which is a property tax to fund local infrastructure but mine is about 1% of house value a year). The government then funds all the schools (and national roads, conservatiom, police etc). Poorer schools get more money than richer schools as richer schools have more options for fundraising. It is not perfect or even good a lot of the time but it does seem less unfair.

Edited by kiwik
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Ours is so dependent on the school itself.  My son's school has a lot of well behaved kids and they can do a lot.

 

The school I work in has major behavior issues and "collaboration" can lead to chaos.  They still try, but it is hard.  Yes, the teacher can make the difference, but even our best teachers are feeling they can't do what they want in the classroom anymore, too many behavior issues. 

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