Monday, August 29, 2016

Teachers: The Short End of a Stick

It's been more than a year that I have been educating my son at home and we love it. This experience totally works for us and I do feel guilty that I didn't start sooner however, Vincent reminds me that his 4th grade teacher was awesome and he would have hated to miss that opportunity.

What made her awesome? As he explains it, there was no homework unless you didn't finish something in class; he spent the school year learning about the agriculture industry specifically in Illinois and it was hands on; she was fair and talked about taking responsibility when you were not being nice; and she made learning fun through games.
(Though her penchant  for homework ruffled feathers from admin & some alpha parents, she continued to teach her way and has received numerous accolades in her field).

Just like there are a percentage of bad cops versus good cops, everyone seems to ignore the latter. Teachers fall under that same ruling. Yes, I have witnessed some horrible teachers who are there for the paycheck and vacation days. But that's not all of them. There are teachers that have gone to college for the specific objective to receive a degree in a specialization in education. The courses are quite thorough and students learn the latest in research regarding how children learn, what is the best way to teach certain types of children, classroom management, incorporating technology, the list goes on and on. They do the equivalent of clinical hours in a school for almost two semesters and take a state exam for certification. They are professionals.

Now let's take a moment and take a look at the general expectations of a professor at a university. First, they either tend to have a doctorate or a masters (community college) to teach college students. Their boss tends to be a Dean of a school and pretty much the professor has the autonomy to select what materials will be taught in their class and how he or she will teach it (though this is changing). The Dean doesn't get involved. The Dean has a mission for the department and expects each professor to incorporate it in their curriculum. Of course, professors have more flexibility than teachers in regards to their schedule, etc. but my point here is that the treatment of professors should be the same for teachers.

Hence, a teacher should be allowed to create their own curriculum for the classroom and choose whatever materials and resources they want to achieve their goals. If the teacher decides they don't want to use a textbook. Then that's it; they don't. They should have the ability to understand what the school's mission is for each student and incorporate it in their lesson plans.
Instead, they walk in to be stripped from all the knowledge and experience they have learned in college to be told to use a textbook, must adhere to state/federal guidelines on what is taught, use a specific software, and pass standardized tests. They must meet a quota and can't stray from it. And this is only the surface of it.

Mind you, there are teachers that are so organized they can find loopholes to teach their way and make it fun for kids but it is exhausting. So when that Jimmy kid acts up, it ruins everything. You are at your wits end and it really isn't the student's fault.

I read about Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates meeting with principals and administrators and the occasional teacher, on best practices for learning, and then investing money in it. Tsk tsk. What they should be doing themselves is reading on the top research about education and then sitting down with teachers from different cities and different grade levels (focus group anyone?) to find out what really needs to happen. Hell, have them drop in to an average public school and be a substitute for a week. That's right, no warning, drop in, look at a teacher's lesson binder and go. Ha!

We have a long way to go.....

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Turning Japanese: Their poop don't stink! Really.

Yokohama, Tokyo, Japan. This was my first stop. I had a view of the bay where Godzilla comes to save the day.
First few things I noticed was the slippers. When you enter a room, home, dressing room (yeah like in a department store), you have to take off your shoes. Then they have slippers for you to use in the bathroom only. That way your feet remain clean and you don't track whatever you stepped on in the bathroom to the rest of your home. Yep. Bathroom slippers.
When I sat on the toilet, (sorry for the TMI), I noticed my butt feeling warm and a noise come out of a speaker on the wall. It sounded like really loud rain. I was in awe. Heated toilet seats and a noisemaker for when you do #2! This is some fancy hotel!! It had an electronic bidet attached to the toilet.

Turns out, this is standard in all bathrooms including PUBLIC bathrooms! Even the Shinkansen has it. It goes on. The public bathrooms not only have the bidet, heated seats, and noise factor, but the stalls are completely sealed. So there is no peeking allowed! A few of the bathrooms I visited (yes my trip to Japan consisted of visiting bathrooms) had a button on the side for you to raise or lower the toilet seat. That device alone can save marriages. Then there was a liquid dispenser and a diagram explaining how to use it on toilet paper to wipe down the toilet seat. 

Now there are distinct features in a women's public bathroom where you squat to pee. At first, I had no clue which way to face to squat but on my visit to the Nico Castle, they had a diagram and you basically face the flushing mechanism. These types of toilets are more common in touristy areas or in subways where there are a lot of people commuting. It's no big deal and you always have the option of using the #2 toilet if you are older or have a disability. 

One more thing, most of the toilet stalls had baby seat that hold your baby while you use the toilet. They think of everything. 

Overall, Japan is spotless. The people take pride in being clean (reflects their inside) and every job, housekeeper, subway cleaner, retail store, coffee shop, is practiced with pride. Every where I went to eat, I was offered disposable, sealed wet wipes which I stocked up on for the trip. There's no littering. Nothing. They also use face masks to avoid getting sick or spreading illness. This goes for teens too. They present themselves well dressed. No Walmart attire here! It's probably unlawful. As is noise. The motorcycles didn't seem to be so loud. During rush hour, you would hear birds chirping inside the subway to calm people down. 

The people. I can't say enough about them. So kind, so helpful; very genuine. Not trying to screw you. No need to barter. You ask a question; you get the correct answer. No need to double guess. 
It's impossible to get lost. You just have to ask someone or the employees at the public transportation and they will help you. If you don't ask, they won't help. They let you figure it out. They are not intrusive. Oh, and they know basic English. Though I do recommend you learn basic conversational Japanese. Please, thank you, your welcome, excuse me, yes, no, 1-5, hi, bye, etc.

Crime? I saw a little 10 year old girl riding the train, by herself, going home from school. She would text someone to let them know she entered or was leaving a train. Not a soul bothered her or looked her way. My son was ready to move to Japan. It is safe.

Oh, and they have no problem wishing you MERRY CHRISTMAS and decorating with Christmas lights and trees. That's right!! They are not even Christian!!

That's enough for now.