09 September 2010

Changes in Education

There have been many changes in education in recent years; some of the changes have been significant while others claim we have only been tinkering with schooling. We have read a lot about change and restructuring in education to address the various issues that the public has identified. The role of teaching has changed much. When I started teaching, there was no such thing as SPED, parents were much more involved in the lives of their children, and, as a general rule, children were not exposed to the variety of things to which they are exposed today.

I was looking at some research today in preparation for a class. One of the articles dealt with the factors that influence children. In the 1960’s and prior to that time, the following were the institutions that impacted children:

1. Home
2. School
3. Church
4. Peers
5. Media

Since the 1960’s, there has been a significant shift in how institutions impact children; now the most important is the media, with the rest in the following order:

1. Peers
2. Home
3. School
4. Church

We may bemoan the fact that the family is no longer the predominant force it was once was – and we can certainly work to change that – but this is the reality that we are facing today. Children today are different – and some if it probably not their fault – society has changed; teachers are not the same as we were 40 years ago. Yet, it often seems that the structure of schools is still similar today to what it was years ago. We are still using the factory model, lining children up in rows, the teacher on the stage, and students not encouraged to work together. Yes, I know there are classes where this is not the case; unfortunately the research suggests that the majority of classes are still as I described.

One of the advantages that we have today is the considerable amount of research about good teaching and how to help teachers become effective. Silberman’s and Coleman’s studies in the 60’s and 70’s suggested that schools were not effective and Silberman even called them “mindless”. We have left that morass, fortunately; there are still things we need to do differently. Today our relationship with students is critical; I was not taught the importance of developing a relationship with students – my own experience in education really did not seem to place much emphasis on that – however, we know that today this is one of the primary tasks of teachers. However, in order to build that relationship, we need to walk a fine line. The social distance between teachers and students needs to be maintained and unfortunately, some teachers seem to have difficulty grasping the difference between building a relationship with students and keeping an appropriate social distance from their students.

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