Thursday, November 5, 2009

There Will Be No Renaissance Without 21st Century Education

I read an op en in the NYT by Susan Engel, Director of the Program in Teaching at Williams College. In her article, Teach Your Teachers Well she cited academia's "turning its nose up at education" as one of the core issues that keeps the field from attracting and sustaining the brightest minds to teach in our public school systems. Hence the dumbing down of our youth - and our international status as laughing stock when the topic of education comes up. I happen to agree.

This isn't the only issue to be dealt with, but it's a good start.

Engel says we need hybrid teacher programs that demand a high GPA in order to participate and that teachers should undergo an extensive application program. This would, invariably, weed out the ones signing up for the long summer hols and highlight those individuals with a passion not only for teaching, but for learning. I teach, therefore I learn should become the motto.

Engel also recommends that teachers be taught in-depth about the development of children at specific ages and how to relate to them. She recommends mentoring programs under masterful educators and that the students, like psychology students, should be taped and critqued on their in-classroom performance.

Another of her brilliant ideas was to hire teachers in groups (of 7 or more), so when they are placed in a new school environment they’ll be surrounded by an (incoming) support group – new teachers - not left to fend for themselves or be ostracized by seniority or under-performing teachers threatened by fresh meat. This in turn would raise the bar, and set a much higher standard for all – newcomers and old.

Of course, there are other issues that hamper the process and keep our education system malfunctioning – overcrowded classrooms, unmonitored teaching practices, curriculums that don’t engage students or address urban issues, lack of innovative (or even new) technology for students to learn on, diminished arts and music programs, and dysfunctional or apathetic parents and teachers. You get the picture.

But Engel's ideas map out a beautiful plan of action that could easily tackle several of these seemingly inherent problems.

America needs a Renaissance, desperately. And for that, the country needs passionate, educated and competent teachers to create a generation of vibrant, educated and fully-functioning people – ready to re-enter the global workforce and compete, competitively.

"The student is only as good as his teacher " . We can do better, a lot better.

No comments:

Post a Comment