Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Slice of The Cake

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allA Slice of Chocolate Cake
" because whoever has something, will have more given to him."
Mark 4:25

I am not religious, neither am I against religions, but Diane Cordell’s post, The Others, made me think about Mark 4:25.

She asks the questions:

  1. Q - Do you believe that our educational culture could be/should be more inclusive?

  2. Q - Are we reaching the Others?”

My reactions to those were immediately, 1. A – yes, 2. Ano.

Diane made me reflect on just how the educational culture that I know could be fairer, so that every learner was included, got a fair share, and got a fair chance to speak out. I wondered about practicalities and the reality of it all.

I left a comment on Diane’s post:

While it is true that teachers are not reaching all learners and all learners are not getting a 'fair share' (whatever that is), the practicality of it all is that teachers can't reach all learners. And of course all learners can't get their fair share.

The question is, how do we go about cutting the cake so that each learner gets their fair share?

I am a distance educator with some 200 or more students. The way the system operates, learners can phone me anytime they wish. I phone them sometimes too. But if a learner phones me and chats for 20 minutes, she's used 8 more minutes than I have allocated per week to spend with her.

A fairer share:

The reality is that my weekly ration is less than 12 minutes per learner to do all I need to do with associated teaching and learning. That includes phoning up the learner if need be. That's about 150 seconds per day per learner.

Fair? I don't think so. But how do I, as teacher, make adjustments so that all learners get a fair crack of my time?

Do I say to a caller, "Sorry, your time is up for this week. Give me a call next week and I'll give you the rest of the help you need"?

Or do I lay aside Jenny's assignment that's next in line for assessing because she spoke to me for 20 minutes on the phone?

After school:

Classroom contact is not much different from this. When I taught in a classroom, I used to give coaching sessions for maths after school. Effectively it gave kids an extra 20% more time with me. You can see the theoretical leverage that had on their achievement. Though in reality it was not quite as efficient as that, it still made a significant difference for those who participated.

A recent study has shown that the reason children from the so-called lower classes don't do so well at school is because, for them, the school IS the learning.

For more privileged children, their learning continues at home and that includes during the holidays. Oh, it's not all maths, science and English for them in the holidays, but it's learning just the same. Their parents groom them in other useful skills in preparation for their place in society. How does a teacher redress that inequity?

An eye for an aye:

Callous I may seem to be, but in the environments that I have taught in, including the present, I adopt the principle that each learner gets from me what they are prepared to give. That's to say, if a learner is prepared to spend time on the phone with me, I am prepared to spend the time with them.

Fair? I think so.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


V Yonkers said...

It seems that we can't expect that a teacher can take on the role of both teacher and parent.

So to provide those from homes where parents can't or won't support learning outside of school, we need to provide programs that will motivate and support students outside of class (mentoring programs, after school programs that include homework help, meal programs).

I am always a bit uncomfortable with the focus on "equal" over "fair". Students that work well in groups learning from other students receive "fair" treatment by working on group projects, although they may not get "equal time" as those that need more teacher student support and/or interaction.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia

I am a parent. I can sit with my kids for half an hour at the computer, take them to a movie, watch TV at the weekends, help them with a bit of homework during the week, take them shopping, go on holiday with them.

While all of that takes time, it's time that I have on my hands. Even a conservative estimate of half an hour per day per child gives me 2.5 hours per week that's 150 minutes, which works out at over 12 times the amount of time that I have to do teaching and surrogate parenting for one of my students at TCS. You can see the ridiculousness of any expectation of a teacher to do parenting of students (but it happens nevertheless).

Your point about after-class is exactly what I attempted when I was a classroom teacher - I say attempted, I was still tending about 30 students all at once! It is difficult to be a parent to 30 kids all at once.

I may be wrong, and I might even be a bit arrogant, but when I say I can trust my (own) kids to be on their own on the computer, I mean it. I could not say the same for many of my students. There is a lesson to be learnt there somehow, and I don't think my kids need the lesson.

If every parent did only half of what my wife and I do in parenting, teaching would be a far more rewarding job academically. I concede that teachers often get rewards from what they do doubling as social workers in the school.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

What is sad is that 1)there are many parents out there that expect teachers to be parents to their kids, 2) there are students out there that only need a little bit of support to put them on the right path, 3) there are parents that have never had someone to show them how to be nurturing and a "teacher" to their children, and/or 4) there are parents that just don't care about their children and expect them to raise themselves.

As we have no prerequisites for becoming parents or even taking a new born home from the hospital, we are going to have these problems. On the other hand, I have a student this semester that with the help of an adult mentor, got out of a gang, and is now on his way to a much better life with a college degree.

Teachers get burned out with the weight of responsibility of being both teacher (to their students and their own children) and parents (to both their own children and those they see floundering in class). Shouldn't society as a whole start pitching in?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia

I concur with what you say about society in general pitching in. I do wonder about just what society could do to help with this though. We seem to have moved away from community spirit. I believe the so-called nuclear family has a lot to do with this.

Back a few generations, 'the family' involved everyone - grandparents etc, often living in the same household. The community families of yesteryear were replaced by the nuclear families (a 20th century innovation - if that's the right word).

Now the grandparents are living apart from the 'family' in so many cultures. There is less of the relationship between the grandparents and the grandchildren.

There are still some cultures on the globe where the grandparents (and aunts/uncles) took a role in the parenting of children including grandchildren.

Though I was the product of a nuclear family, my grandmother had the authority of a parent and often cared for me as a parent would. It was simply accepted. This broader responsibility of 'family adults' over the care of children seems to be diluted today.

Catchya later