The Center for Disease Control has published its guidelines on schools reopening. It is important to note that these guidelines only apply where community transmission is controlled. This is currently not the state of affairs where I live and work. Our nation's president does not like the guidelines because they make obvious the fact that the vast majority of school districts are not prepared for reopening. So he is asking the guidleines be changed... Thankfully, the scientists in the CDC are standing their ground and refusing to change the guidelines. If Science starts using personal preferences to inform its results, then it stops being Science to the extent that the personal preferences were used.
We are fast approaching the reopening of schools here! I will be headed back to teaching and my children will be heading back as students. Our school district has decided on a plan to give students a choice whether they get distance learning virtually or they head back to the physical school building for face to face instruction. They are not giving teachers a choice about heading back to schools, though. Even teachers that are going to teach virtually will be going in to the school building to do their teaching during normal hours. This has a lot of teachers and people in the community understandably scared. That fear is exacerbated by the fact that we happen to be in one of the worst states in the country from infection rates of Covid, thanks to the ineptitude of our governor and his political allies following the advice of our country's president.
However, it is good to get as much data as possible from reliable sources during something like this, which stokes fears and rumors among a populace that has a large contingent of people who are scientifically illiterate and given to giving credence to all manner of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.
So here is an article by the journal Science, America's top peer-reviewed science journal, discussing the issue of school reopenings and what we can actually say scientifically about them.
Here's a wonderful short video that the BBC just put out explaining introversion. The fact is that our current American society is unknowingly hostile toward introverts quite often. This is also the case in our schools where somehow we've gotten it into our collective heads that we should be forcing students to constantly talk to each other. To be sure the extroverted students in school love this. And since they make up the majority of the general population (and are by their very nature the most outspoken when compared to introverts) it's easy to see why the situation has devolved into its current state. Constantly being forced to talk is a huge stressor to introverts, however. My own children tell me they can't stand the "Turn and talk to your shoulder partner" activity constantly being done in classrooms now. I hate it when it's done to me in staff development trainings as well. And as usual in education, there is absolutely no actual research backing this latest fad up. This wonderful little video lets introverts know that not only is there absolutely nothing wrong with them, but that introversion is a needed trait within society.
And then to follow it up, here is a TED talk by Susan Cain, the author of the phenomenal book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Her book should be required reading for all educators. We must respect all sides of the spectrum of interpersonal communication in education if we are going to meet the needs of all students.
"That's where the crows will sit. But we'll have to put an elevator to put them up there because they can't fly, but they don't know that, so they still try."
This amusing quote reminds me of the educational practice known as scaffolding. It's the act of building an intellectual structure around a student to allow them to succeed at a task which would otherwise be beyond their base abilities.
Technology is a useful tool for a few things in life and in the educational world. Only a few things. One is for record keeping. The other is its use as a creative medium, akin to musical instruments or paint. There is another final use which is a two-edged sword. It is useful for tracking down information if you are properly trained in critical, logical, and skeptical thought. But it is not a tool made for delivering that found content in a way which partners with how our brains process information. That makes this last use of technology an enticing intellectual danger. This is because it has been determined definitively at this point that consuming anything more than surface level content digitally is counterproductive to memory formation and deep thought. But this fast acquisition of surface content is highly addictive to people. And as they consume more and more of this shallow type of content, people lose the ability to wrestle with deep content. I have lost count of how many of my friends and acquaintances over the years have told me they used to read books all the time. But now they can't. The book The Shallows, a Pulitzer Prize finalist book by Nicholas Carr, answers why they can't. It answered why I couldn't. That book scared the daylights out of me. There is a reason it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist the year it came out. And now the latest studies of reading for pleasure among children show that they are doing less and less of it. I remember when the Harry Potter books came out and we teachers thought we were entering a golden age of children reading as young student after student heaved around those thick books everywhere they went. This was the case even in the inner-city schools, where I was a teacher at the time. But that was right before the internet, smart phones, myspace and its followers, and of course YouTube. You rarely see students doing that in the school hallways anymore. Look in their backpacks. Very few will have a book of any weight in it anymore (that they chose for pleasure).
This article in the Times, points out the technological lie that is currently infecting our school systems and draining our budgets, and discusses a little of the research surrounding why it is truly a lie.
Link: The Times
Here's an article by a teacher about the general uselessness of most homework. It also brings out the important point that homework steals inter-family time that can not be gotten back. Therefore, teachers should ask if the homework they are giving is important enough to take away some more of the little remaining time children have with their family in the evening before bed. One thing that comes to my mind is the issue of whether the homework can be done together with the parents or not. For instance, reading homework can certainly be done as a family. All families should read together, in my opinion. So an assignment to read in the evening should not be taking away from family time. On the other hand, there are those monstrous projects some teachers assign students with strict guidelines that the students' parents are not to help them. Those things are definite family time thieves.
Fascinating way to look at the issue...
Article: The Guardian
Here's a good article from NPR explaining how many majority non-white school districts end up getting less money per student than the majority white school districts. The only way to eliminate this is to end school district funding based on local property taxes.
Article Link: NPR
Well this was interesting. I ran across this article from a few years ago showing that teacher attrition in the first five years of teaching is only 17%. For years people have been saying it's around 50%. Fascinating.
Link: Washington Post Article
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