Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Beginning

Talking to myself.
I have no idea if anyone will ever see this. I don't even know if I plan to tell anyone about it, but here it goes, anyway.

After substitute teaching in a new magnet school for a week, I am again wondering about educational structures. The way this school is set up, students can arrive at 8 am, 9 am or 10 am. The first two hours are exploratories, with the students getting some choice in the subjects they will be studying. Even the youngest children, Kindergarteners, get to choose from topics such as Spanish, pet care, jump rope, etc. Some students are enrolled in classes that they need, such as remedial reading or math. Then at 10 am, the "core" classes begin. This seems to consist largely of a 1 1/2 hour reading block for the younger ones. I am actually more interested in the older students, but I was subbing in a mixed 1/2 class.

This was followed by recess and lunch. Then there was another reading block - one hour and a math block. Then the kids went home. I may have the schedule slightly wrong, as this was a testing week and there were some changes, but that is basically it.

Now, my impressions. There was an awful lot of movement from here to there. It seemed fairly efficient, i.e., the kids knew where to go and how to behave in the halls, and there seemed to be little time wasted. But nevertheless, it seemed hard to settle the kids down each time a new activity started. The groups of kids taught in the core reading blocks were ability grouped, so all of the kids were at a similar level. This actually helps as far as teaching skills.

The math groups, though were not ability grouped. All of the first graders did first grade math; all of the second graders did second grade math. This was very difficult for me as a sub - trying to teach a 1st grade math lesson at the same time I was trying to get the second graders engaged in their math lesson. Kudos to the regular teacher for managing to figure it out.

Still, overall, my impression is that the kids actually had very few minutes of direct instruction in math or reading. There was a lot of time spent on management issues - sitting so that they could see the teacher, sharpening pencils, finding workbooks, etc.

And one has to wonder, what happened to social studies, art, music, science? I think they are covered by exploratories, but I was not clear about whether any of this is required. The school goes from Kindergarten through 8th grade - how well will this structure address all aspects of the curriculum? What happens to kids with special needs - learning disabilities, gifted, etc. Is there a consistent plan for addressing them in each of their classes?

An interesting thing to ponder.

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