Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Road to Perdition

It must be hell hate your job. That hate must cause an absolute decay of spiritual strength. Luckily, I don't hate my job, but sometimes I look up from the road to find myself deep in wicked forest brimming with Rodents of Unusual Size.
This afternoon while helping an administrator prepare for our state exam, I commented on how no one will read any of the directions we're creating for them. "You have a little jaded old teacher in you," he joked. I laughed because it's true. Tucked away in my cynical mind is an old man ready to sit on the porch and yell at kids to get off my lawn. Of course, I will text my other old buddies who are doing the same and laugh about who scared the most children.
In my daily reading of the WAPO online, I stopped to read Jay Mathews' article, which provides 7 ideas to improve schools without spending money. The old man in me came out. I'll grant that the following ideas are worthwhile:

2. Unleash Charter Schools
3. Have teachers call or e-mail parents with praise every day. (He clarifies that he meant at least one parent per day.)
4. Have parents call or e-mail teachers with praise every day.
5. Have high school students read more non-fiction.
6. Encourage every teacher to call on every student in every class.

It was number one and seven that the old man showed up.

1. Replace elementary school homework with free reading.
--What is this crap about not giving homework to elementary aged students? Every other day someone writes about how far behind the rest of the world we are in education, but they want us to take away what should be a valuable practice time. Not to mention the good habits homework forms. I'm not talking about three hours a night, but thirty minutes of math practice isn't going to hurt students. Heck, in fourth grade I bought into the no homework theories and just didn't do my math homework for a quarter. I didn't learn much. We'll let kids have insane music and sports practice schedules, but freak out if we ask them to extend their learning beyond the classroom.

7. Furlough everybody.... (He uses his wife's upcoming two week unpaid furlough to help the company as an example.)
--I rarely complain about teacher pay. In fact, the only time I do is when outsiders suggest teachers get paid too much or should take a pay cut. Teaching is not charity. It is a profession that receives little monetary respect considering the task the public is asking us to accomplish. "Shape our future," is what they ask of us. That seems a daunting and important task, one that deserves more money (because that's what society has deemed an appropriate show of importance) than what most teachers make. I will challenge any outsider to come be successful at what we do, for the pay we receive, and not believe that financially speaking we do not value teachers enough.


At 4:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting blog site, Mr. McNamar. I just discovered this site today. Definitely some very compelling insights on the school we teach at. I'll have to check this site on the regular.

-S. Gilligan

At 5:45 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...

Indeed, indeed.

What is wrong with giving elementary aged students HOMEwork each night? Shouldn't they have to study for upcoming tests? As far as I know, the best way to get better in math is to practice. There are too many people who think we are pushing kids too hard. In my opinion, we aren't pushing them hard enough in most cases.

I've always wondered about the teacher pay issue. Without teachers, no other job in the world would be possible. Even those ball players who "earn" millions of dollars to play a game had to learn something along the way from a teacher.

At 7:28 PM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...


At 6:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What is this crap about not giving homework to elementary aged students"

It is better to have no homework than useless busywork. My kids do NOT need coloring homework, to rewrite spelling words they already know, to play scavenger hunt around the house for odd items, etc. So far, my kids have been in school for a total ten years. That would be one kindergartern, second grader, fifth grader. There have been two years when the homework was of any benefit. That would be part of third grade and part of fifth grade.

It is irritating and offensive that teachers think that we have so little capacity to do productive things in our home with our children and feel the need to send home projects.

Quite frankly, my kids spend a lot of their school day killing time. If there isn't enough work for them to do at school, there is no reason to send ANY work home.

At 9:44 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

I didn't equate homework with useless coloring activities. Extending a student's practice beyond the walls of a classroom and into the home should serve a greater purpose than simply the academics.
It can serve as a way for parents to reinforce learning as a life-long and never ending process. That fact is that while you may spend your time wisely by planning educational opportunities in the home, many parents do not. That attitude is picked up by students and then carried into the classroom.

At 6:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. McNamar,

I missed the part of your post that defined homework. I was speaking from my children's experience. You are making a BIG assumption, in this statement :

"Extending a student's practice beyond the walls of a classroom and into the home should serve a greater purpose than simply the academics.
It can serve as a way for parents to reinforce learning as a life-long and never ending process."

Elementary school is the land of heterogenous class groupings. In practice, this means that there is a huge (like 10 years) spread in skill levels in a classroom. For some kids, extending practice means extending busywork. For many years, my daughter has taken the Monday spelling test, gotten all the words correct and then had to do all the spelling busywork until the Friday test. There was no learning going on in school and sending more busywork home ensured that the time spent on homework could not be spent productively. The time in no way that time could be considered learning.

My kids get sent home with extensive coloring homework.

I have come to the understanding that public elementary school is in large part day care. I don't like it, but I can't afford private school. Ok, I work, so I need my kids in daycare. But we don't need busywork when we are home.

I suspect that some of the attitude you see coming from home with the kids is the frustration on the part of parents like me. We are resigned to the fact that our kids waste a majority of their time at school. We don't like it, but can't fix it. There is no reason the school should waste more of their time at home.


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