Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday, already

It's Friday already. Can you believe it? I can't. Some things have improved. I had my first "normal lessons" at work. Some of my students are actually beginning to trust that if they listen and do what I say, they have a chance at actually succeeding in learning English and passing the bagrut, the standardized tests by the Ministry of Education. There's nothing like success to bring success, and my students seem to all suffer from terrible self-esteem and long histories of failure.

Two and a half months after the beginning of the school year, and we're just starting to establish some sort of trust and routine. I understand them. Why should they bother if they're going to fail? That's why I'm a firm believer in "homogeneous" classes, where students on the same level and learning speed are together. That's how I was raised in the New York City system in the middle of the last century, and I understand that they still compose the classes on that basis.

There's nothing more frustrating than a class consisting of all levels. The brightest are bored, because it's too slow. The slowest are bored, because they can't keep up, and the middle is distracted, because the other kids are acting out their frustrations. And the teachers are burnt-out from both ends and the middle, from trying to teach a minimum of three classes simultaneously.

There are those who say that there's a stigma for the kids in the slower classes, but that doesn't compare with public failure and frustration when trying to keep up with kids who learn at a much faster pace. The embarrassment of not understanding the lessons, while others are speeding ahead is the true stigma.

When I was a kid, we had over forty, yes, 40 kids in the brightest classes, and we all did well. If we couldn't we were dropped to the next lower class the following year. The other classes had much few kids, though more than today's norms in most school systems.

Just like shoes must be the right width and length to be comfortable and enable someone to walk, run etc, classes must be shaped, geared to the student.

Success brings success.


Esther said...

Absolutely!!!!! It's sad when kids fall through the cracks. Yours are lucky to have you.

Thanks for the advice. I'm totally leaning your way. I just have to figure out how to make it work financially.

wendy said...

This is something that is frustrating about living in a small town, where the schools do not offer advanced classes. There is a stigma when you fall behind, and there is also a stigma when you are bright, enjoy learning, and know the answers.

muse said...

Esther, thanks

Wendy, yes, sometimes the brightest suffer the most.

The Northernmost Jew said...

I am a very strong believer in homogeneous groupings. I went to Stuyvesant High School in NYC, a school for smart kids. Best thing I've ever done. As a math teacher, I think kids should be with others at their own level. It is very politically incorrect, however. My education professors (at a school that cared a great deal about political correctness) all said that studies show that smarter students and slower students do better in mixed level classes. I don't believe it, especially in math where if you miss something you are lost. At the moment, I teach in a school of about 50 students, K - 12. I teach 2 math classes, one of all the high school students, and one of all the middle school students. I also teach the same groups science. Unfortunately, the idea of advanced classes is out of the question. There are about 140 people in the village, and the nearest other villages are plane rides away.

muse said...

The same in English. It's impossible to properly teach English as a Foreign Language, EFL, when there's a large diversity of levels.