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Posts Tagged ‘school’

Elective Shock

Many schools in New York are bringing in a new wave of electives, focusing their efforts on classes that students will (GASP!) enjoy! But how could this be? Schools can’t afford to add electives with the economy like this, can they? And students shouldn’t look forward to going to school, should they? And electives couldn’t possibly benefit the school, could they? (I hope you’ve caught on to my being facetious.)

The answer is yes! Yes to all of those things! This is what I’m talking about, folks! This is one of many ways to PROMOTE INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY among students! Electives help these New York students to look forward to going to school. It’s not such a chore for the student when he/she realizes that he/she can rely on at least one hour of the day to be fun. Listen to some of the elective opportunities they have: 3D Animation, History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Woodworking, Global Economics, Jewelry Making, Military History, Advanced Java Programming, Mandarin Chinese, etc!

The article boasts that these classes give seniors the motivation they need to drag themselves out of bed to go to school. They also give students’ transcripts a more well-balanced feel. This way, students aren’t all about the AP classes and college-prep classes.

The only problem finances seems to present concerning electives is class size. Currently the elective classes must have 15 students in them in order to continue, but that number may be raised to 20 or 25 due to the financial status of the country. But hey, no sweat. The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll class drew in 33 pupils when it aimed for 15!

Among all of the benefits of the electives, the one that really stands out is the freedom the electives give students over what they will learn.

“It’s letting people learn about what they love rather than dictating what they should be learning,” said Morgan McDaniel, a senior who added the rock ’n’ roll class to her roster of Advanced Placement classes in calculus, biology, European history and studio art.

“High Schools Add Electives to Cultivate Interests”
by Winnie Hu
The New York Times
Education Section
26 October 2008
Full Article

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I can only complain about standardized testing so many times before the steam runs out. Therefore, I feel no shame in straying a little from my predetermined subtopic. I am still following the same theme of “promoting intellectual curiosity” though, so fear not. The subject today: home schooling.

My inspiration comes from a high school-aged friend of mine who recently made the switch from public schooling to home schooling. Instead of attending a monopolizing seven hours of school a day, she simply collects her assignments from her teachers and completes them at her own rate. Without having to attend her classes, much of her time is freed up. How that time is spent is her own choice.

In my experience, the majority of people have a somewhat negative view of home schooling. It is a common belief that while home schooled children often excel in academics, their social skills are lacking. This assumption is understandable, considering home schooled children have less opportunity for socialization with peers. . . or do they? According to an article I found through Google News,

“Many families today are active in home school groups, such as the Britt Home School Group, where the children meet for several hours each week or every other weeks for a shared class, art, music or a special party or field trip.”

With these opportunities, students are probably allowed more time befriending others than is allotted at public schools, of which rigorous academic schedules leave little room for socializing.

The benefits of home schooling are practically boundless. As mentioned before, children who are home schooled often do not have to devote as much time to school. Aside from that, they are forced to learn how to prioritize their tasks, how to motivate themselves, and how to learn directly from a source, such as a book or computer. All of these are essential life skills, but they are often unlearned until after high school. It seems as though home schoolers have a leg up on the competition.

As of 1990, a study done showed that test scores from home schoolers easily met the 80th percentile, according to this website.

I hold home schooling in high esteem. I used to have a pretty distorted view of it, and I wish that I had been more informed about it when I was actually in school. If I had known the details, it probably would have been an option I would seriously have considered. It would have freed up more time for me to learn about what I want to learn about, rather than what information is imposed on me. If there is one thing about school that has left me most distraught, it is the idea that my teachers assigned me books enough to deprive me of any opportunity to read out of pleasure. If I had been home schooled, l also may have had the illusion that learning was a choice. Even if I had a set curriculum, I would have been able to expand upon the ideas that most interested me. And that, my friends, is what I mean by “Intellectual Curiosity”. I put a heavy emphasis on it because many people learn only what they must. Society would be a lot better off we could feed the fire of intellect, if we could teach people how to teach themselves simply by following up on what interests them. As corny as it is, even if that idea touches only a few people, it will be worth it, because in turn, those people will effect others and, indirectly, the whole world will change simply by a chain reaction. I truly believe in the idea that knowledge is power. When you think of it that way, a teacher becomes a sort of superhero, saving the world one homework assignment at a time.

Home Schooled Students Excel in Life, Academic
by Mary Loden
The Britt News Tribune
14 October, 2008
Full Article

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Having endured a long thirteen years of required schooling, I feel like I have earned the right to say that education is not what it should be. On a lighter note, I can say that I learned more than what was necessary for my educators to teach me. For example, I learned quickly that many teachers aren’t cut out for the job, but that doesn’t stop them from barely trying. I also learned that even the most creative teachers are usually uninspired by lesson plans that revolve around standardized testing. Also among my lessons: a student can barely try and still succeed. (This is a lesson I’m recovering from in college. It’s a hard habit to break.)

As you can tell, my view of education is pretty dim. But alas, I’ve chosen to enroll myself in a university, so I must have some faith in the system. Here is what it comes down to: I love the freedom that college promotes. I can choose what classes I want to take. I am encouraged to wander out of my safe zone, whereas in high school, we had strict guidelines we were “encouraged” to follow. (Although, I will say I do believe this is because the more time that I waste, the more money the college will make off of me.) In high school, I never strayed from the recommended curriculum. I took four years of English and math, three years of Spanish, three years of social studies, three years of science. I hardly took the classes that actually interested me. Looking back, I would say the thing I regret most about my class choice is neglecting the opportunity to take art. I felt that because I was in choir, colleges would look down on me if I was enrolled in two “blow off” classes. I never would have taken an art class as an opportunity to slack, though. I genuinely wanted to learn how to create art. I missed my chance, though, and all because of the restraints I felt were imposed on me.

That’s the thing about high school: any free will that a child is afforded is discouraged. I found it difficult to really take advantage of my education when there were so many guidelines. It all seemed pretty pointless to me. So I’m here to stick it to the man. I realize that when I’m a teacher someday, certain things will be expected of me. I will meet those requirements, but I fully plan on implementing lessons that really light a fire for students. I chose my blog title (Make it EPIC) based on the goal of encouraging students to take learning into their own hands. My current classes inspire me to the point that I walk away with mental lists of everything I want to learn about that is beyond what is required of me. I can hardly keep up! Learning has become exciting. It has become an adventure. It has become mine. I hope to teach high school students this concept someday.

In the meantime, I will be griping about one of many issues that I believe stifles this enthusiasm toward learning: the dreaded standardized testing. It seems as though teachers do not have enough time anymore to teach about the things that really matter because they must conform to the limits of standardized tests. This is a blow to intellectual curiosity of both teachers and students.

I realize that standardized tests have their perks. Schools can get more money if their students are performing better. But what kind of system is that? Shouldn’t the role of an educator be to teach a child so that the child may excel, rather than to teach the child so that the school might? It all seems pretty twisted to me. I am aware that schools also need to make sure students are measuring up to their peers. If that were the sole reason for giving students standardized tests, I would be much more sympathetic. That’s not the case though.

To continue my case against standardized testing, I will staying up-to-date on news related to the issue. I have subscribed to several RSS feeds, which as as follows:

The Washington Post (education section only)
New York Times (education section only)
Google News Query: Standardized Testing
Academic Search Premier

Feel free to rant and rave along with me! This is only my first of many. Now tell me how YOU feel.

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